Items from The News, Navy News and Warship World are reproduced by kind permission of David Brown, Sarah Fletcher and Steve Bush respectively. Click on the thumbnails to enlarge them.
30 Sep 09 - Website statistics
The MCDOA website attracted 16,054 visits during September 2009. This is the first time the number has exceeded 16,000 in a single month, an average of 535 per day. Internet surfers in 56 countries scored a total of 707,462 hits on individual pages, files and images and downloaded more than 17,000 megabytes of data.
29 Sep 09 - MCDOA AGM, Operational Updates & Annual Dinner at HMS Excellent
The calling notices, application forms, programme, agenda and proxy voting form for these events are now available for download via the 'Upcoming Events' page in the Members Only area. If any member has difficulty accessing this, please inform me via my webmaster e-mail address and I will forward the forms direct.
I have amended the 'Dates for the Diary' entry below so please check for changes.
26 Sep 09 - Dates for the Diary
Friday 2 Oct 09 - Minewarfare and Divers' Middle East Dinner (MADMED)
Open to all serving or ex-members of either Branch who are working in the region. If interested, please contact MCDOA member Dave Hunkin as soon as possible.
[Updated 14 Nov 09]
Thursday 26 Nov 09 - Ouvry commemorative event on board HMS Belfast
Ten MCDOA-sponsored places have been allocated for this lunchtime event on board HMS Belfast on Thursday 26 November to commemorate the 70th anniversary of Cdr John Ouvry DSO RN and his team first rendering safe a German magnetic mine at Shoeburyness on 23 November 1939 (see entry for 28 Aug 09). Two places are still available.
MCDOA attendees will comprise our President Colin Welborn, Chris Ameye, Chris Baldwin, Doug Barlow, John Beavis, Keith Broughton, Kim Godfrey, Peter Greenwood, Committee member Martyn Holloway, Vice Chairman Rob Hoole, Martin Mackey, Ian Morton, Tom Russell, Si Leightley, Andy 'Sharkey' Ward and Honorary Treasurer & Membership Secretary Richard 'Soapy' Watson.
AORNFCD attendees will comprise Chairman Don 'Jimmy' Green, David 'Jim' Bond, Mike Handford, Robin 'Rick' Rickard and Jim 'Tommo' Thomson.
MWA attendees will comprise Chairman Wayne 'Pony' Moore and Robert 'Dixie' Dean.
[Updated 6 Oct 09]
Friday 20 Nov 09 - MCDOA AGM, Operational Updates & Annual Dinner at HMS Excellent
This year, our Guest of Honour will be Vice Admiral Richard Ibbotson CBE DSC (Deputy Commander-in-Chief Fleet) who was awarded his DSC as the Commanding Officer of HMS Hurworth following the 1991 Gulf conflict. The calling notices, application forms, programme, agenda and proxy voting form for these events are now available for download via the 'Upcoming Events' page in the Members Only area. If any member has difficulty accessing this, please inform me via my webmaster e-mail address and I will forward the forms direct.
As is our custom, we will mark the 25th anniversary of LMCDO '84A (Course Officer: Dave Ellis. Course Instructor: Pete Still. Students: John Burden, Andy Elvin, Chris Lade and Mike McCann) and LMCDO '84B (Course Officer: Dave Ellis. Course Instructor: Pete Still. Students: Chris Ameye, Jon Chapple, Pete Greenwood, Steve Marshall (after sustaining injury during '84A diving phase) and Clive Rogerson). As most members will be aware, Dave Ellis was cut down in his prime by cancer earlier this year (see entry for 31 Jul 09 in News Archive 27) so this occasion will provide the perfect opportunity to gather in his memory, especially for those who were unable to attend his funeral (see entry for 16 Aug 09). Also, Bryan Barrett informs me that he will be coming over from the USA to celebrate the 44th anniversary of LMCDO '65 with his course mates and fellow MCDOA members John O'Driscoll and Mike Stewart.
We will also be dining out MCDOA members leaving the Service. If you are a leaver and wish to be dined out this year, please inform Tony Griffiths, our Honorary Secretary, in good time and advise him which version of glass mine or diver you would like as your 'gizzit'. Leavers must have been paid-up members for at least the past three years to dine for free but may pay for the privilege if they have joined the Association in the meantime. Our Membership Secretary informs me that leavers Richard Battrick, John Law, Mike Loane and Clive Smith are paid-up but Paul Guiver has lapsed his membership.
This event is heavily subsidised by the MCDOA so only bona fide members are eligible to attend and bring private guests. Check that the Standing Order covering your annual membership subscription is still valid before applying or you will be disappointed. If you are not yet a member of the MCDOA but feel you are entitled to join, the necessary Application Form and Standing Order Authority (effective from the next 1 Jan) are available for download via the Membership section. You will also need to send a cheque for £10 payable to the MCDOA to cover the current year.
Thursday 10 Dec 09 - Project Vernon Carol Service at St Barbara’s Church, Whale Island
Fellow Members of the RN Minewarfare & Diving Community,
I have undertaken to organise a Christmas Carol Service in St Barbara’s Church, Whale Island on Thursday 10 Dec 09 followed by mince pies and mulled wine in the SR dining hall afterwards; cost £10. The aim is to kick Christmas off, raise some money for Project VERNON but above all to meet up with like-minded friends. If you could do a reading or help as an usher please let me know.
To ensure that you don’t miss out on this great evening please complete and return the attached application [download here] to me as soon as possible. I will send the tickets in early Nov 09. It is an all ticket event. None will be available on the night.
Saturday 12 Jun 10 - RN Divers' Social on board HMS Warrior
This event will be held on board HMS Warrior 1860 at Portsmouth and is being organised by the Association of RN First Class Divers (AORNFCD). It is open to past and present RN divers of all ranks and their guests. The cost is £55 per head and the booking form is available for download here.
25 Sep 09
Defence Diving School trains the first trainers in CDLSE
The Defence Diving School (DDS) has today trained and qualified some of the supervisors and staff who will teach the new Clearance Diving Life Support Equipment (CDLSE) and are now able to train MCMVs' diving elements and professional qualifying courses in the equipment.
The three-week course starts with two weeks at DDS learning CDLSE theory, maintenance of the equipment and mandatory dives and supervision. The final week is spent at Kyle of Loch Alsh where the divers practice up to a depth of 60m and also where the supervisors can practice and understand the new 90 series tables, under the watchful eye of the CDLSE instructor.
DDS will have two training teams specifically tasked to train up all DDS Staff, MCMVs, FDU3, FOST/DEMSS staff and squadded divers. The first ship to be trained will be HMS Middleton (4 Oct 09) and this will mark another significant step with this world-beating piece of equipment. DDS will continue to train units until the end of 2010 to meet the Full Operational Capability (FOC) requirement. During the deep diving phase, some ships will be used for the training of their specific team. However, most ships' teams will be training from the new dive support tender, SD Moorhen, which operates from Kyle of Loch Alsh.
Early indications are that divers think this is a fantastic piece of equipment and will really bring the Royal Navy to the top of Military Clearance Diving in the world.
Congratulations on completion of 60m dive
(L to R) PO(D) “Smudge” Smith (CDLSE instructor), PO(D) Jim Lynch (who will teach the first AB(D) Course in early 2010),
LS(D) “Chuck” Norris (MCDO Course JMDI) and Lt Cdr “Soapy” Watson DTO(N) at DDS
Congratulations on achieving 60M
(L to R) PO(D) Smith, CPO(D) “Whiskey” Walker (Second DDS CDLSE Instructor),
LS(D) Iain Rigg (CDLSE JMDI) and Lt Cdr “Soapy” Watson
24 Sep 09
Prince Edward visits HMS Pembroke in the Gulf
I am grateful to Lt Rich Skelton RN, Navigating Officer of HMS Pembroke, for this contribution:
Visit by His Royal Highness Prince Edward Duke of Wessex
Commodore-in-Chief Royal Fleet Auxiliary
On Thursday 10 September 2009, HMS PEMBROKE hosted His Royal Highness Prince Edward. The Prince was visiting RFA LYME BAY in his capacity as Commodore-in-Chief Royal Fleet Auxiliary, and as LYME BAY is deployed in direct support of MCM Operations in the Arabian Gulf, Prince Edward visited PEMBROKE to meet members of the ship's company and hear how things are from an RN point of view.
Prince Edward meets HMS Pembroke's CO,
Lt Cdr Andy Lamb RN
After an introduction to the tasks of a Single Role Minehunter, the Prince was escorted to the Operations Room for a brief on the Seafox Mine Disposal System by Lt Isaacs the Ops officer and one of the ships two Mine Warfare Officers (MWOs) it was also an opportunity to meet members of the Minewarfare department and learn of their experiences operating in the Gulf. The Prince was then shown into the Wardroom to meet other members of the ships company and view the two types of diving sets held onboard. Leading Diver Scotty Eaton gave a comprehensive explanation of the abilities and limitations of the two sets, Clearance Diver Breathing Apparatus (CDBA) and Swimmers Air Breathing Apparatus (SABA). Throughout his visit, members of the ship’s company were on hand to fully explain the various operating procedures and equipment, and there was also an opportunity for Prince Edward to listen to their comments about life onboard a Royal Navy warship operating in this part of the world.
Prince Edward meets members of
HMS Pembroke's ship's company
Prince Edward thoroughly enjoyed his visit to PEMBROKE, having seen a clean ship and a welcoming ship’s company, and left with a greater understanding of our connections to the RFA and of our responsibilities in general.
Another 'Ted' (and a little girl) visit HMS Atherstone in the Gulf
Today's Portsmouth News contains this article describing how Emma Livings, accompanied by her school's teddy bear 'Alban', visited HMS Atherstone in Bahrain in August to see her father, Lt Iain Jones RNR.
Emma Livings and 'Alban Bear' on board
HMS Atherstone in Bahrain
(Portsmouth News photo by LA(Phot) Jay Allen
Minewarfare & Divers' Middle East Dinner (MADMED)
Please see the 'Upcoming Events' page in the Members Only area for the latest update on this event which is due to be held on Friday 2 October.
Deep respect for Royal Oak
The Faslane-based Northern Diving Group (NDG) features in this article on the Navy News website describing efforts to raise funds for a permanent memorial in Scapa Bay to commemorate the torpedoing of HMS Royal Oak on 14 Oct 1939 with the loss of 833 of her crew (see entry for 10 Sep 09).
NDG members diving on HMS Royal Oak
(Navy News photo by Simon Brown)
For more details visit www.simonbrownimages.com/html/hmsroyaloak.html or call 01252 653759.
23 Sep 09 - News from HMS Penzance
I am grateful to Lt Pete Evans RN, Navigating Officer of HMS Penzance, for this update:
HMS PENZANCE - 17 Sep 09
PENZANCE has been alongside in a maintenance period in Faslane since July. During her last few weeks at sea she was used as the MCMG week ship, training the next generation of MCMV crews in Loch Long, Firth of Clyde. Once the training week was complete, and after an against-the-clock Voith check in Faslane, she headed for a three-day stop in Liverpool. The RNIPE (Royal Navy in the Public Eye) visit to the Albert Dock was conducted in glorious sunshine and included a jam-packed Open To Visitors. The visit was a great success, and certainly one of the best visits MCM1 Crew 4 have had.
HMS Penzance in Albert Dock, Liverpool
Since then PENZANCE has become part of the scenery in the Gareloch. As part of the maintenance she received upgrades to her engines, sonar and several of the mine-hunting system. Crew 4 has also taken delivery of several brand new crew members; there are new AB mine-warfare ratings, AB Divers and AB ME’s, as well as a new Weapons Engineering Officer.
In August the crew bade a fond farewell to Lt Cdr Simon Wallace who has been the Commanding Officer of this crew since November 2007 and through an OST, deployment and countless route surveys in home waters. He has moved on to Intermediate Staff Course. Lt Cdr Steve Brown has taken up the mantle and, having spent his last job in the Ministry of Defence in Whitehall, he is looking forward to getting back to sea more than anyone.
The next stage for the ship is a week of trials in the Minches, gunnery training and then Exercise JOINT WARRIOR on the west coast of Scotland.
22 Sep 09 - Spike Hughes in Qatar
Ex-WO(D) Chris 'Spike' Hughes, my old friend from Plymouth Clearance Diving Team days c.1980, is currently working in Qatar and has sent this atmospheric photo showing him swimming back to his new diving boat, 'Honolulu Baby'. He had just completed a 25m wreck dive with four civilian students. It certainly looks as though he is enjoying himself.
Spike Hughes and his 'Honolulu Baby'
21 Sep 09 - Mine Warfare Association AGM and Social
Fellow MCDOA member Martyn Holloway and I very much enjoyed ourselves at the Mine Warfare Association's annual reunion held in HMS Collingwood on Saturday night. The MWA's inaugural AGM had been held during the afternoon and the minutes will appear on its website in due course although you have to be a member (only £12.50 per year) if you wish to access it.
MWA AGM: Committee members present included Northern & Foreign rep Polly Porter, Wales
& Midland rep Garry Abnett, Vice Chairman Pete 'Taff' Reader and Webmaster Ronnie Barker
The reunion in the evening was an extremely convivial affair and it was good to see such familiar people as George Turnbull (now spending six months every year in Florida and the other six months in Wiltshire where he is a volunteer guide at Longleat House), Pawl Stockley (Laird of the Manor somewhere in the remote Highlands of Scotland), Pony Moore, 'Tommo' Thomas, Taff Davies, Chris 'Charlie' Howe, Polly Porter, Fred Bassett and Dave Pyne (sporting his usual digger hat) among several others. I also enjoyed chatting to PO(MW) 'Gilly' Gill who has just joined the staff at MWS from HMS Ramsey after two stints in the Gulf.
MWA Reunion starts to warm up
Running the fun and games was Les Heyhoe, assisted by his wife Lyn. Les is the Secretary of the RN Writers' Association and he and his wife have raised over ten million pounds for service charities including the Falklands Veterans' Foundation and Help for Heroes. The AGM had already decided that any profits from the night should be split evenly between Help for Heroes and Project Vernon, the campaign to erect a statue at Gunwharf Quays to commemorate the Minewarfare and Diving heritage of HMS Vernon. The games took the form of horse racing and a bingo-like card game called 'Quarterdeck'. Attendees bid for the horses, bet on the results and bought tricks of thirteen cards (quarter of a deck - geddit?) with all proceeds going towards the winnings or into the charity pot.
Horse racing for charity
Left: Steve 'Nemo' Wesby receives a crate from Les for winning Quarterdeck
Right: Taff Davies receives a bottle of port for winning Quarterdeck
Congratulations and thanks to Taff Reader and his team for organising such a splendid evening. Why not join the MWA now so you can attend next year? All the necessary information is on its website at www.mwassociation.co.uk.
19 Sep 09 - SDU1 supports disadvantaged young people
18 Sep 09 - HMS Quorn visits the 'Big Apple'
The Navy News website contains this article describing the visit earlier this month of HMS Quorn to New York with other ships of Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group 1 (SNMCMG1). The Portsmouth News contains this article on the same subject.
Members of HMS Quorn's ship's company in New York
(Navy News website photo)
17 Sep 09
BBC News item about pre-deployment IEDD training
PO(D) Jai Gardner on BBC News
The BBC website contains this article describing Op Herrick pre-deployment IEDD training at Shoeburyness which includes a video broadcast on tonight's 10 o'clock news. The article features PO(D) Jai 'Digger' Gardner, seconded to 49 Field Sqn (EOD), 33 Engineer Regt from the Faslane-based Northern Diving Group (NDG), and he appears in the video 01:53 from the start.
Fleet Diving Squadron helps launch new stamps
Today's Daily Telegraph contains this article describing the Royal Mail's release of a new set of stamps featuring naval uniforms. It includes this photo of members of the Fleet Diving Squadron (FDS) at Horsea Island:
The Royal Navy Fleet Diving Squadron launched the special edition release
16 Sep 09 - Message from Cdr Paul Jones RN, the MoD Superintendent of Diving
The Royal Navy’s Chief of Staff (Capability), Major General Garry Robison RM, visited Horsea Island today to have a close look at the CD Specialisation’s new diving set (Clearance Diving Life Support Equipment). The new set will provide 60 metre capability and three hours endurance – it is a significant improvement on the currently in-service CDBA and supports improvements in countering the modern mine threat and anti-terrorist force protection.
On the back of successful trials in the early Summer, the first CDLSE course is well underway at Horsea and we expect to have two MCMV CDEs and one FDU trained, equipped and operational by December 2009. The rest of the Fleet and DDS career courses will see the introduction of CDLSE begin in earnest in January 2010.
Left: COSCAP chats with CPO(D) ‘Ruby’ Murray
Right: COSCAP with PO(D) ‘Whiskey’ Walker, 'Soapy' Watson and members of the AB Diver course
15 Sep 09 - SDU1 deals with anti-tank grenade in Plymouth
Left: British Grenade No 68 AT Mk III
Right: British Grenade No 68 AT Mk IV
14 Sep 09 - News from HMS Pembroke
I am grateful to Lt Rich Skelton RN, Navigating Officer of HMS Pembroke, for this update:
ROYAL NAVY CREW HEADS FROM 25°C TO 55°C
MCM 1 Crew 7 bade a fond farewell to the familiar surroundings of Faslane and HMS Shoreham this month as they deployed to the Middle East. After completing Operational Sea Training, the crew flew out to soaring temperatures and humidity to take over in HMS Pembroke.
Lt Cdr Andy Lamb RN
Commanding Officer HMS Pembroke
The Royal Navy has deployed four MCMVs to the region where these hulls and essential support elements maintain a constant presence in the area. Whilst it is possible to maintain a ship away from the UK for prolonged periods, the crew need to routinely change over and this month saw the entire ship’s company of HMS Shoreham fly east from RAF Brize Norton. After a day to acclimatise to the stifling 40 °C heat and 80% humidity, the hand over began and MCM1 Crew 7 swapped ship with Crew 5 and took over Pembroke. [By Webmaster: A similar exchange occurred with MCM1 Crew 8 (ex-HMS Walney) taking over from Crew 1 in HMS Grimsby.]
HMS Grimsby and HMS Pembroke
change Commanding Officers
(RN Website photo)
Two days after completing the handover, the ship with its new crew has sailed from Bahrain leading several other coalition partner units into the local area for a two-week exercise. The exercise is an ideal bedding-in period and the crew are already making a difference in the region as vital international relationships and links are fostered and trade routes are kept secure.
RN MCMV SHOWS PLENTY OF 'GRIT' DURING EXERCISE SHAMAL
Immediately after taking over as the new ship's company of HMS Pembroke, MCM 1 Crew 7 began a two-week exercise called Shamal. Designed to bring together coalition forces and practise core skills and drills at sea in the testing environment that is the Arabian Gulf, the exercise was a great start for the 40-man crew.
US Navy Coastal Patrol Boat seen from
HMS Pembroke during Exercise Shamal 2009
Having only just taken over, the first week began with the crew getting to know Pembroke and ensuring that she was up to speed figuratively and literally. The team pushed the ship and themselves hard to dust off any cobwebs and set up Pembroke the Crew 7 way. The usual post-sailing warm-up exercises were conducted including a small arms firing (of note was the newest sailor (AB(MW) Wilkinson) who proved herself to be a crack shot). The key to success was international cooperation and this strong liaison and interoperability led to some high tempo combined mine sweeping and hunting operations against a number of challenging exercise drill mines.
Clearance Diving Element
Personnel were thoroughly tested in very hot and humid conditions – operating SEAFOX and divers in 45 degrees centigrade heat was no mean feat. The ship’s primary mine disposal system (SEAFOX) was put through its paces and between it and the crack team of Clearance Divers, the force was able to deal with all the exercise objectives successfully finding and disposing of a number of drill mines.
Left: HMS Pembroke conducting Silent Conning Run
Right: Floating exercise moored mine
Normally operating in UK waters, it was impressive to see the ease with which the divers and SEAFOX have transitioned from cold to hot weather conditions. In fact the ship was able to detect and examine a whole host of underwater contacts including oil pipelines and lots of fishing pots. The exercise also saw the upperdeck weapons team tested in their response to a series of threats. A variety of drills were conducted with and without air assets in support and a number of full simulation attacks were successfully countered!
HMS Pembroke rafted up with RFA Lyme Bay
To keep fuel tanks and sailor stomachs full, the team also undertook a first for Crew 7 and ‘rafted’ up alongside RFA Lyme Bay. The replenishment was slickly completed with ‘Lyme’ as she maintained her position out at sea by ‘hovering’. The combo of divers, engineering support embarked in Lyme Bay and at sea logistics supported the ship brilliantly well and proved that Pembroke is ready to fight and win.
12 Sep 09 - RN Minewarfare & Diving Heritage: Lt Cdr Jackie Rea MBE RN
Those who attended the Horsea Island barbecue in June may remember seeing Mrs Edda Rea, widow of the late Clearance Diving Officer, Lt Cdr Jack 'Jackie' Rea RN. She was accompanied by Cllr Irene Strange, the widow of former PO(D) Albert Strange (see entry for 15 Jun 09 in News Archive 26).
Edda Rea (left) and Irene Strange with MCDOA Chairman
Paul Jones at the Horsea Island barbecue
A few weeks ago, I received this e-mail from Jackie's son Peter Rea:
"I was browsing your excellent website and noticed the section where you list awards made to members of the Fleet Clearance divers. My father was awarded the MBE. I believe it was in recognition of his work where he walked with his team along a considerable length of the UK coastline clearing mines and bombs. He died about 35 years ago now, but as well as the MBE, also hanging in my mother's house is a mention in dispatches for bravery, but I think that was when he as a Gunnery Officer during the Palestine crisis.
My memories of his career are as follows:- When I was just a few years old, we lived at Chatham. We then lived at Bedhampton when he worked at Vernon and was working as a clearance diver, often called out at all hours to go and deal with mines and bombs all over the southern Command area. In 1959 to 1962 he was out in Malta, again doing Mine and Bomb disposal work and diving at Manoel Island, Sliema Harbour. Then he was back at Vernon until he spent his last year before retirement in charge of the experimental diving team at Manadan? Plymouth. They were pioneering new gas mixes.
He was beginning his career when Buster Crabb was around as I recall going to see the film, The Silent Enemy', at Portsmouth. Other names that are familiar as contemporaries and friends of his were Harry Wardle, Harry Hawkins, Bill Filer, Jackie Warner, Joe Brooks, Malcolm George, Pat Dowland.
I have access to some photographs and news cuttings of him and jobs that were featured in the local press. I could borrow them from my mother and scan them for you if you are interested.
I forwarded a copy of Peter's e-mail to a few of his father's contemprories and received these responses:
From MCDOA member Lt Cdr Jim Bladh USN in the USA:
"Mr Peter Rea,
I relieved Jackie as OIC Admiralty Experimental Diving Team in 1967 at HMS Vernon. Cdr Philip White [now MCDOA member Philip Balink-White in Florida] was the Superintendent of Diving. I arrived in Southampton aboard the SS United States; Jackie and Bill Filer met the ship when we arrived. I still hear from Bill Filer, Phillip White as well as some friends in the Portsmouth area. I served three years in Portsmouth and occasionally went to sea on Reclaim commanded by Peter Messervy and Johnny Grattan. Bob Fraser, and later Ginger Andrews, was my leading CPO. With a team like that it was hard to go wrong.
This e-mail has brought back many fond memories. Thank you to all concerned.
From MCDOA member John Grattan:
Thank you very much for putting me on as a copy addressee in your correspondence concerning Jackie Ray. He was my B&MD instructor and this photograph was taken at Hythe in January '59 with one of the old and great rogues of the Branch, Brian Fawcett. [By Webmaster: MCDOA member Bob Lusty describes Brian Fawcett as a standard diver of the old school who was the Chief Diver in charge of the Far East Fleet Diving School in 1961.] In passing, Brian emigrated to South Africa a couple of years later, I seem to remember, and we were all poorer for his departure.
Brian Fawcett with Jackie Rea
at Hythe in Jan 1959
Jackie was one of the world's true gentlemen and we were all shocked by his first heart attack and then the final one because he was so slim and fit as you can see from this snap. He really was a gentle person but with a heart of steel and much loved and admired by all - not least me. In those days one just did not have a close relationship with one's instructor and it was not until later when Jackie was B&MDO Portsmouth and I had the ECDU that we saw much of each other in Vernon. I was on the 1958 CDO course and Jackie qualified a year or two ahead of me. Thus when he was also the B&MDO Portsmouth he taught my course the basics of explosive work at Hythe: and a very great instructor he was too. We had done all the classroom stuff so this time was devoted to practical work and he made it fun as well. For example; any fool can smash things with explosives but controlled use with the minimum amount is much more difficult. On that beach was an old, but complete, buoyant mine case. We dug two goals [with a big charge] about 50 yards apart and divided ourselves into two teams. Then using smaller carefully calculated charges we drove the mine-case up and down the beach to try to score a goal. The rule was that if you scored a goal the class would buy you beer all evening; but if you punctured the case you bought the whole class and particularly the instructors beer all night - typical Jackie!! Suffice it to write - one class mate, who never progressed far in the Branch, got his maths wrong and blew the case to smithereens; so a good time was had by all.
I do not know whether it is in the records or not but there was a tragic accident at Burling Gap in which Jackie was involved. Yet another mine had been washed up there (I do not know why; but we were always being called out to Burling Gap in those days. Previously I have written about Sarge [Sargenson] losing his arm and me doing a German "A" there) and the usual routine was undertaken with Sussex police clearing the area whilst Jackie and the team got on setting up a countermining job. Everything was set and ready to go, and after checking with the police, Jackie pushed down the plunger. At that very moment a youth (one of three I think) stood up amongst the rocks and he took a lump of shrapnel in the chest which killed him almost immediately. Of course there was an enquiry and the findings stated that there was no way either the police or the B&MD unit could have known that three youths were determined to creep up on proceedings without being seen. Lousy bit of ill-fortune but c'est la vie. We always wondered whether this accident had a deep and profound affect on Jackie - quite possible; as I know what it is like to lose a diving friend.
Isn't it lovely that the young of old and great members of the Branch are still interested in it? I find that very heartening and a lovely link to old pals although I was never that close to Jackie as explained above. In any event I soon moved on to Dingley and the HSCDT so left Vernon that summer.
I hope this interests you.
From ex-CPO(CD1) Michael 'Shiner' Brassington:
I saw your reference via Webmaster Rob Hoole. Maybe I can bore you with a drawn out story.
I was civvy diving in 1948 having worked with the '48 Olympic swimming team. They introduced me to my first pair of fins. My diving kit was made from army surplus gear including the first diving inflatable (orange Gemini shaped A/C float.) As an AB RN, I came under Jackie's wing for instruction as a CD (Clearance diver). His first words at my interview were. "You can forget Johnny Weismuller, Hollywood and Dan Dare! You will be in mud, clearing WW II mines and bombs!!....", pause, "...Shall I go on?" I let him go on and learned that I could expect 20 years work. He was right, I seemed to always get the B&MD jobs and little Hans Hass stuff.
My first dive in the Navy with Jackie as I/C of the Chatham school, was into the 30 foot deep lock. We were not overseen very well; only a brief training on boosting our gas bottles. The gas was in a twin bottle for use and a single bottle for emergency. Down I went into the black and into almost three feet of mud. I had to wade out to the end of a line and signal. It took ages getting through the slime signalled and then I noticed that my apparatus was not providing O2. Bypass.... nothing. Emergency......nothing. Frantic signals (in those days the longest in the book). Signal answered but no result as the linesman was also on his first day. More signalling without help. Started to breath from my suit (called Clammy Death). Stuck in the mud in the black and no gas!
A couple of years of diving in the River Lea under the same conditions probably helped me not to become a screaming idiot. I was beginning to think "Oh Dear" or something when the lifeline came taut and I was sucked from the mud into the yellow light of the shallows. On to the catermaran and air tap opened. Jackie Ray lifted my front glass and came out with these immortal words......."Brassington, did you notice how Boyle's Law inflated your suit on the way up??!!!"
Before my class moved to Portsmouth, Jackie took us to Tilbury where, on the south bank, a power station was to be built and a pier built out into the Thames. Jackie's HQ was a local refreshment building and we dip chicks had to wield non-magnetic probes to check for bombs where the masonry was to be dropped on the river bed from the jetty. 55 years later I still can't go over Elizabeth Bridge without looking at that jetty and mouthing "Jackie, you old bugger!"
That's all I can offer, Peter. Our working paths did not cross again; the lubricating paths I will leave to the officers.
Jackie Rea was awarded a Mention in Despatches as a Gunner (Warrant Officer) in 1947 for gallant and distinguished service while operating with the Palestine Patrol intercepting illegal immigrant ships. He was appointed an MBE as a Senior Commissioned Gunner in the 1956 New Year Honours for Bomb & Mine Disposal duties and Peter has furnished this photograph taken prior to his investiture:
Jackie Rea with his wife Edda and son Peter at
Buckingham Palace for MBE investiture
The above photograph of Jackie contrasts starkly with this one showing him dressed more formally in white cap, sword belt and 'licorice-leg' gaiters while presenting arms:
Jackie Rea in Malta presenting arms
in cap, sword belt and gaiters
Here are some more fascinating photos Peter has provided from his father's scrap book:
Jackie Rea and team conducting EOD on a beach
Left: Jackie Rea and LS(D) David Eaton destroying a rocket
Right: Jackie Rea trepanning a mine
Left: Jackie Rea and team with unexploded torpedo
Right: Jackie Rea riding a Chariot
Left: Jackie and Edda Rea at party in Malta
Right: Jackie Rea steaming out a bomb in Malta
Jackie Rea (right) with friend in Malta
I published the following photo, courtesy of ex-CD1 Blondie Limbrick's brother Jim, in News Archive 20 (see second entry for 14 Dec 07). It shows divers outside the RN Diving School on Manoel Island in 1959. These comprised a mixture of 'Corkheads' (CDs) from the Mediterranean Fleet Clearance Diving Team and 'Steamers' (hard hat divers) from the RN Diving School.
Standing: Unknown PO Stoker, Ron Hartshorn, Bob 'Jock' Adam, Tom Kissack, Royston 'Taff' Davey, Unknown Maltese PO Stoker, Bill Cornick, Les Maynard, Jock McKenzie (later killed while attempting to render safe a shell in dredger) and PO Ken Peake (Steamer).
Middle Row: CPO Jerry Locke (Steamer), Lt Cdr Jackie Rea, Lt Cdr George 'Franky' Franklin, Sub Lt Jim Grace (Steamer) and CPO Ernie Foggin.
Front Row: Jim Limbrick (Steamer), Peter Powell and Terry Mathews (Steamer).
Mediterranean Fleet CD Team 1959
Peter has also supplied these copies of newspaper cuttings describing some of his father's bomb & mine disposal work:
Among other images in the files above are these photos taken at the RN Diving School at Chatham c.1954:
Jackie Rea was placed on the Retired List as a Lieutenant Commander on 15 Feb 1969. He died about five years later but will always have a place in our Branch history.
11 Sep 09 - SDU2 deals with unexploded shell found in Solent
BBC Radio Solent has been covering this story about an unexploded shell dredged up by a fishing boat in the Solent all morning. MCDOA member Simon Leightley, Officer-in-Charge of Southern Diving Unit 2 (SDU2), was interviewed live on air by presenter Julian Clegg. Listen again until 18 Sep from 2:19:08 into the programme here. The Portsmouth News website contains this article and the BBC website contains this article.
Unexploded shell found in Solent
(Portsmouth News website photo)
10 Sep 09 - HMS Royal Oak
As members will know, RN clearance divers from the Faslane-based Northern Diving Group routinely change the ensign on the wreck of HMS Royal Oak, torpedoed by U-47 at Scapa Flow on 14 October 1939 with the loss of 833 lives. In June 2009, award-winning underwater photographer Simon Brown was invited by the Royal Navy to photograph and document HMS Royal Oak. Simon has donated this image to the Royal Oak Survivors Association and a limited number of prints will be signed by some of the remaining survivors.
All proceeds of the sale will be used by the Royal Oak Survivors Association to help fund the building of a permanent memorial to their comrades in Scapa Bay. Only ten signed prints will be offered to the general public. Each print is A1 in size and reproduced on archival paper, available from 14 October 2009 to coincide with the 70th anniversary of the sinking. If you are interested in purchasing a print please visit Simon's website here or call him on +44(0)1252 653 759.
9 Sep 09 - Minewarfare & Divers' Middle East Dinner (MADMED)
Please see the 'Upcoming Events' page in the Members Only area for another update on this event which is due to be held on Friday 2 October.
8 Sep 09 - Bomb Scare at Hayling Island
5 Sep 09 - Death of Leonard Berey, the Last Charioteer
The Times website contains this obituary for Chief Petty Officer Leonard Berey DSM, the last surviving veteran RN human torpedo diver.
RN Charioteers wearing 'Clammy Death'
4 Sep 09 - Places available for Ouvry commemorative event on board HMS Belfast
Members are reminded that there are still four MCDOA-sponsored places available for those who wish to attend the lunchtime event commemorating the 70th anniversary commemoration of Cdr John Ouvry DSO RN and his team first rendering safe a German magnetic mine at Shoeburyness on 23 November 1939 (see entry for 28 Aug 09). It is due to be held on board HMS Belfast on Thursday 26 November; canapés and light refreshments will be provided. Apart from presentations by John Ouvry's son David and veteran wartime RNVR Bomb & Mine Disposal officer and author Noel Cashford MBE, MCDOA member Peter Greenwood, Commanding Officer of the Fleet Diving Squadron (FDS), has kindly agreed to give a presentation describing the effect of John Ouvry's legacy on the RN today. He is also endeavouring to arrange a display by members of FDS together with some of their equipment.
Wartime Bomb & Mine Disposal Officer and author
Lt Noel Cashford MBE RNVR with Ouvry's mine
on board HMS Belfast 7 July 2009
All told, MCDOA attendees to date include our President Colin Welborn, Mark Atkinson, Chris Baldwin, Keith Broughton, Mark Durkin (TBC), Jon Beavis (TBC), Pete Greenwood, Rob Hoole, Phil Ireland, Martin Mackey, Andy 'Sharkey' Ward and Honorary Treasurer & Membership Secretary Richard 'Soapy' Watson. AORNFCD attendees include Chairman Don Green, Mike Handford and Jim 'Tommo' Thomson. MWA attendees include Chairman Wayne 'Pony' Moore and Robert 'Dixie' Dean.
Postscript: John Ouvry died on 19 February 1993 and his funeral was held at All Saints' Church in Milford-on-Sea where I was privileged to meet his wartime comrade-in-arms, the late Lt Cdr Roger Lewis OBE DSO RN. I was among the group that attended from HMS Vernon and David Ouvry has found a photograph he took at the time.
Chris Thompson*, Rob Hoole*, Dan Nicholson*, Julian Malec*,
CPO(MW) Pinky Preston and George Turnbull
assembled after John Ouvry's funeral in Feb 1993
3 Sep 09 - News from HMS Ramsey
I am grateful to Lt Marc Taylor RN, Navigating Officer of HMS Ramsey, for providing this update:
HMS RAMSEY UPDATE
Since the last website update, HMS Ramsey is out of the water and in the safe hands of Babcock Marine in Rosyth. Prior to entering her docking period, the Sandown Class minehunter visited another port on the west coast of England when she berthed in Canning Dock, Liverpool as part of the Armed Forces Day celebrations at the end of June. Although the entrance into the tidal lock meant that Ramsey would be in the heart of Liverpool’s rejuvenated Albert Dock area, it was a tight squeeze with less than a metre to spare either side. Through the lock without incident, Ramsey was berthed opposite the Maritime Museum. The ship was opened to visitors on the Saturday and nearly 700 people were welcomed aboard.
HMS Ramsey in the River Mersey and approaching her berth in Albert Dock, Liverpool
HMS Ramsey alongside the Maritime Museum in Albert Dock
While some of the ship’s company remained onboard to demonstrate her mine hunting, diving and damage control capabilities, the remaining member’s of HMS Ramsey attended a special Armed Forces Day service at Liverpool Parish Church of Our Lady & St Nicholas. The service was followed by a parade to Liverpool’s City Hall with Ramsey leading the way representing the Senior Service. A civic reception followed allowing sailors, airmen, soldiers and veterans to share experiences and memories of service life.
Some of HMS Ramsey's ship's company
(looks like the Kop to me)
After squeezing out of Canning Dock and sailing out of the Mersey, the next destination was Rosyth to start a four month Docking Period. The weather was kind to Ramsey as the ship transited through the Western Isles and around Cape Wrath and there was an abundance of marine life to keep watch keepers busy. The glorious weather meant that Ramsey could afford to get a closer look at Dunnett Head, the most northerly point of mainland Britain. For one sailor, Logs(CS) Simon Flear it was a special moment, Ramsey’s Chef resides in the nearby town of Thurso and his family were on the headland to wave Simon a safe trip to Rosyth. Ramsey’s penultimate day at sea was spent transiting south along the east coast of Scotland, the fine weather meant that the Leading Hands’ BBQ on the crane deck could take place and was a fitting end to take Ramsey into Rosyth and some well deserved maintenance.
For the ship’s company, July and August have been relatively quiet with many taking the opportunity to undertake professional courses, adventurous training and, of course, summer leave. Although December seems an age away, all are too aware of how quickly time can disappear and therefore preparations are underway in earnest to ensure Ramsey is ready to deploy once again.
Postscript: Here's a photograph from my archives of some Improved Hunt (Aberdare) Class 'Smokey Joe' minesweepers in Albert Dock during a visit by HM Ships Pangbourne, Alboury, Tiverton, Dunoon, Dundalk and Sutton in May/June 1929. The warehouse in the background is now the Maritime Museum where HMS Ramsey was berthed and the Royal Liver Building is just visible through the gloom on the left.
Improved Hunt (Aberdare) Class 'Smokey Joe'
minesweepers in Albert Dock in 1929
2 Sep 09
News from HMS Chiddingfold in the Gulf
I am grateful to MCDOA member Al Nekrews, First Lieutenant of HMS Chiddingfold, for providing this update:
OPERATION TELIC MCM
HMS CHIDDINGFOLD conducted a crew swap in July with Crew 5 (ex-HMS Hurworth) taking over from Crew 7 which is going back to take over Hurworth. Crew 5 have settled into CHID now and are just about getting used to the heat! CHID has conducted some weapon training since arriving in theatre in order to get the team worked up and make them more familiar with their environment.
CHID has also seen some action recently when the CDE [Clearance Diving Element] was tasked to assist USS Scout who had wrapped her UW Vehicle cable around a drill buoyant mine during a UK/US Exercise. The brave Clearance Divers detached and found the buoyant section at 30m with a ‘snakes wedding’ of cable tied in knots around the tether. The decision was taken to cut the wire-rope tether with a hacksaw which (in theory) would release both the buoyant section and the vehicle to the surface. Armed with a combat hacksaw and a pair of bolt-croppers, the Diving Officer (Lt Al Nekrews) and his enthusiastic apprentice (AB Diver ‘Soapy’ Watson) proceeded below surface to conduct the task. The team had discussed the task in hand prior to deploying the divers and the diving supervisor, PO Diver John O’Brien, quite rightly noted that it was going to be one of those jobs that was either going to work out in no time at all or it would be a complete nightmare. Given that the buoyant section was at 30m, the divers had a limited amount of time on task. Unbelievably it only took a few cuts with the combat hacksaw before the vehicle and buoyant section were free and headed to the surface at a rapid rate of knots.
Having assisted USS Scout to recover their vehicle, CHID was given approval to conduct ‘Pouncer Ops’ on the mine on the surface. John O’Brien thought he would give young Soapy Watson a birthday present by allowing him to be the diver to attach the 4lb pack to the mine casing and fit and initiate the charges. The resulting “bang” was quite impressive with the top-plate reaching an impressive height.
So all in all, a good day at the office.
Lieutenant A N Nekrews Royal Navy
New personal update
The Members Only area contains an update from MCDOA member Andy Elvin who has just returned from five years on exchange with the US Navy.
1 Sep 09 - Navy News items
The September issue of Navy News contains these items of MCDOA interest:
Deep and meaningful ceremony: The underwater award of an LS&GC medal to PO(D) Andy Coulson of SDU2.
31 Aug 09 - Results of the Project Vernon Grand Summer Draw
I have received this announcement from Paul Jones, MCDOA Chairman and Superintendent of Diving:
The Project VERNON Summer Draw took place today in Horsea Island – the draw was witnessed by two members of the Project Team (myself and Dixie Dean) and the tickets were drawn by a member of the Portsmouth Royal Navy Bomb Disposal Team Duty Watch. The winners were as follows:
Framed and Signed ‘Danger at Depth’ Limited Edition Print (donated by the VERNON Project) – AB Diver Steve Boughen (Fleet Diving Unit 2)
Guest Invitation to Minewarfare & Clearance Diving Officers Association Annual Mess Dinner (donated by the MCDOA) – Mr Matt Williams (GWQ sales Ticket)
Pride of Bilbao Spanish Mini-Cruise (donated by P&O Ferries) – Mr Graham Renwick (GWQ Sales Ticket)
Pride of Bilbao Spanish Mini-Cruise (donated by P&O) Ferries) – AB Diver Ashbridge (Defence Diving School)
Pride of Bilbao Spanish Mini-Cruise (donated by P&O Ferries) – PO(D) Andy Coulson (Southern Diving Unit 2)
Ticket for Free Car + 4 passengers to Isle of Wight (donated by Wightlink Ferries) – Mr Peter Richards (MWA Sales)
Ticket for Free Car + 4 passengers to Isle of Wight (donated by Wightlink Ferries) – ex-WO(MW) Pawl Stockley (See Note)
(Note: Pawl Stockley was contacted and as a Scottish native now he has kindly donated the IOW ferry tickets to the next draw winner – a ‘spare’ was drawn and the winner is CPO(D) ‘Mel’ Meleady)
The number of tickets sold was 1,590 raising a grand total of £3,180 and the winners were indicative of the spread of tickets sales (with two of the winners coming from the Gunwharf Quays (GWQ) sales weekend). Congratulations!!!
The winners will be informed and the main prizes will be presented formally at the earliest convenient date (with photos!!). Rob Hoole has kindly agreed to announce the winners / sum raised on the MCDOA website (and will forward the same to the MW / CD Associations for wider distribution).
Can I personally thank all those who worked so hard to sell their tickets and raise the profile of this fantastic cause. Can I also thank the kind sponsors of our prizes (I will write to them all). Most importantly can I pass on my thanks as the Project Chairman to all those hundreds of people who purchased the tickets (the ticket sellers know who they are) and a significant sum raised as a direct result of their generosity. Well done all – Summer Draw 2010 is on the cards and bigger and better prizes will be on offer (watch this space).
Commander Royal Navy
MOD Superintendent of Diving"
30 Aug 09 - The end of HMS Kellington
The BBC website contains this article describing the final stages of the scrapping of the Ton Class minehunter HMS Kellington at Stockton-on-Tees (see entry for 21 Jun 09 in News Archive 26). Ton Class Association (TCA) member George 'Georgo' Dixon has sent me this sequence of photos:
The sad end of another once fine ship
Only Bronington, Iveston and the GRP-constructed Wilton survive in the UK from this class of well over a hundred ships that served the Royal Navy, and the navies of several other countries, so faithfully for half a century.
Postscript: On the night of Saturday 5 September 09, Carl Gorse was present when the remains of HMS Kellington's hull were lifted clear of the water in two halves. He has kindly allowed me to publish these photographs:
HMS Kellington's hull being lifted ashore
29 Aug 09 - RN Minewarfare & Diving Heritage: Lt William 'Bill' Bailey CBE DSC GM* RNVR
Lt William 'Bill' Bailey CBE DSC GM* RNVR
Bill Bailey was a wartime contemporary of the RMS (Render Mines Safe) officer, Cdr John Ouvry DSO RN (see entry for 28 Aug 09), but he was also a diver. He helped Cdr Lionel 'Buster' Crabb OBE GM RNVR counter Italian charioteer frogmen of the 'Decima Mas' attacking anchored ships at Gibraltar and was a pioneer of the Royal Navy (and a Royal Netherlands Navy) Port Clearance Parties ('P' Parties) that cleared the ports of Europe as the Germans retreated following the D-Day invasion. These 'P' Parties rendered safe thousands of items of ordnance, including many booby traps, both above and below water as the Allies advanced and were the forebears of today's RN Clearance Diving Branch. Despite the fact that 'P' Parties performed these hazardous tasks in the worst of environmental conditions and often within close proximity of the enemy, they suffered no loss of life. Bailey commanded 'P' Party 1574 which was among the most active.
Bill Bailey's son Andrew lives in Portugal. He has kindly sent me a marvellous illustrated wartime tribute to his late father (link) which I have now added to the website's 'Dit Box'. Andrew informs me that Cdr John Stuart 'Mouldy' Mould GC GM RANVR was his father's best man and that Cdr James Leslie Harries OBE GM RCNVR was his own Godfather. He states, "Between the three of them, these special men earned many decorations and were lucky to survive the war - most humbling." Details of all the decorations earned by these naval bomb & mine disposal officers are included among the 'WW II Awards for RN Diving and Bomb & Mine Disposal' in the website's 'Branch History' section.
28 Aug 09 - 70th Anniversary of John Ouvry and his team first rendering safe a German magnetic mine
Cdr John Garnault Delahaize Ouvry DSO RN
You may have noticed the current proliferation of events and news stories marking the 70th anniversary of the beginning of the Second World War. Of particular interest to the RN mine warfare and diving community is a lunchtime reception, including talks and audio-visual presentations, to be held on board HMS Belfast on Thursday 26 November (see third entry for 9 Jul 09). This is intended to mark the 70th anniversary of Cdr John Ouvry DSO RN and his team first rendering safe a German magnetic mine at Shoeburyness on 23 November 1939. The opportunity will also be taken to promote Project Vernon, the campaign to erect a monument at Gunwharf Quays in Portsmouth to commemorate the mine warfare and diving heritage of HMS Vernon which previously stood on the site. Invitations will be sent to veterans, senior officers, politicians, civic dignitaries, journalists and representatives of the commercial shipping world.
HMS Belfast on the Thames
This commemorative event is being organised by a triumvirate comprising the late Cdr Ouvry's youngest son David, the WW II veteran RNVR bomb & mine disposal officer and author Noel Cashford MBE and me. The cruiser HMS Belfast, the Imperial War Museum's floating exhibit on the Thames, is the obvious venue because she has Ouvry’s mine on display and was herself seriously damaged by a magnetic mine as she left the Firth of Forth on 21 November 1939. This mine, laid on 4 November by the German U-boat U-21, injured 34 of Belfast’s ship's company, broke her keel and wrecked her hull and machinery to such an extent that it took nearly three years to repair her at Devonport.
David Ouvry, Rob Hoole and Noel Cashford
with John Ouvry's mine on board HMS Belfast
For the attention of MCDOA members
This event is part-sponsored by the MCDOA which has funded ten places on the guest list to help defray overall costs. However, MCDOA President (Capt Colin Welborn RN), Keith Broughton and I are sponsoring ourselves and MCDOA Chairman (Cdr Paul Jones RN, the RN Superintendent of Diving) will be absent on duty. MCDOA members Martin Mackey, Tom Russell and Soapy Watson have already asked for places so that leaves seven others available. If any other MCDOA members would like to attend for free, please advise me of your name, telephone number and address (for despatch of invitations) via my webmaster's e-mail address. Places will be allocated on a first come, first served basis.
For the attention of AORNFCD and MWA members
Don Green, Chairman of the Association of RN First Class Divers (AORNFCD) and AORNFCD member Mike Handford are sponsoring themselves as are Pony Moore, President of the Mine Warfare Association (MWA), and MWA member Dixie Dean. If any other members of either association would like to attend for a nominal charge of £12.50 each, please advise me of your name, telephone number and address (for despatch of invitations) via my webmaster's e-mail address.
For the attention of other interested parties
Applications from interested parties ineligible for MCDOA, AORNFCD or MWA membership will be considered on an individual basis. Please advise me of your name, telephone number and address (for despatch of invitations) via my webmaster's e-mail address.
The period of WWII between September 1939 and the Battle of France in May 1940 is often referred to as the 'Phoney War' because so little action was apparent to the British public. However, the Royal Navy and the Merchant Navy were heavily engaged right from the start; this was still some eight months before the Battle of France and nine months before the Battle of Britain. Within hours of war being declared against Germany on 3 September 1939, U-30 sank the liner SS Athenia off Rockall with the loss of 98 passengers and 19 crew members. On 17 September, the aircraft carrier HMS Courageous was torpedoed by U-29 in the South West Approaches with the loss of 518 lives. On 14 October, HMS Royal Oak was sunk by U-47 at Scapa Flow with the loss of 833 lives and on 16 October, German bombers attacked British warships at Rosyth in the Firth of Forth. In November, the armed merchant cruiser HMS Rawalpindi was sunk by the German battlecruiser Scharnhorst off Iceland and in December, the Royal Navy cruisers HMS Exeter, HMS Ajax and HMS Achilles fought the German pocket battleship, Admiral Graf Spee, at the Battle of the River Plate, forcing her to retreat into Montevideo harbour where she scuttled herself. There was certainly no 'Phoney War' as far as the Royal Navy was concerned.
In 1939, German U-boats were still few in number and they did not yet have the bases in France providing short and relatively safe access to the open ocean. However, merchant ships and warships around the UK coast and in the approaches to ports were experiencing mysterious underwater explosions and being sunk or seriously damaged at an unsustainable rate. The cargo ships SS Magdapur and SS Phryne were sunk on 10 and 24 September 1939 respectively and the liner City of Paris was severely damaged on 16 September, all as the result of mines laid off Orfordness by U-13 on 4 September. This area had already been swept of moored mines and, as losses mounted, the Admiralty began to suspect the use of magnetic ground mines. However, owing to their self-destruct mechanisms, no mines of this particular type had been recovered intact to confirm them as the cause or enable the development of effective countermeasures. In September and October 1939, mines accounted for almost 60,000 tons of Allied merchant shipping. In November, mines took the lead as the main threat to Allied sea communications, sinking 27 merchant ships totalling 121,000 tons. As Churchill conceded at the time, "The terrible damage that could be done by large ground mines had not been fully realised."
Churchill as First Lord of the Admiralty
visiting HMS Vernon 21 Sep 1939
The breakthrough came on 23 November 1939, the day after a German parachute mine had been discovered on the mudflats at Shoeburyness. Commander John Garnault Delahaize Ouvry Royal Navy, then a Lieutenant Commander as a Render Mines Safe (RMS) officer based at HMS Vernon in Portsmouth, was already investigating reports of German parachute mines in the area and was soon on the scene. He was accompanied by Lieutenant Commander Roger Lewis Royal Navy (another Vernon-based RMS officer). After the mine had been staked against the incoming tide, Ouvry and Lewis photographed it and conducted an initial examination before reporting their findings. Ouvry returned some hours later with Chief Petty Officer Charles Baldwin (killed on 3 Feb 1940 along with course of 14 RNVR Sub Lieutenants on board a drifter while recovering loose British moored mines in the Forth) and Leading Seaman Archibald Vearncombe who had arrived from HMS Vernon. While the rest of his party remained well clear, Ouvry approached the mine with CPO Baldwin and proceeded to render it safe using non-magnetic tools produced specifically for the task. Lewis and Vearncombe, now joined by Doctor Albert Wood, a Principal Scientific Officer in the Mine Design Department at HMS Vernon, then helped dismantle the mine for subsequent recovery and transport to HMS Vernon for detailed investigation.
Ouvry's mine on the mudflats at Shoeburyness
For his deed, Cdr John Ouvry was decorated with the DSO by King George VI at a ceremony on HMS Vernon’s parade ground on 19 December 1939. He was not awarded the VC because he was not deemed to be "in the presence of the enemy" and the GC was not instituted until Sep 1940. Others decorated at the same time for this, and other tasks where mines were rendered safe for recovery and examination, were Lt Cdr R C Lewis (DSO), Lt J E M Glenny (DSC), CPO C E Baldwin (DSM) and AB A L Vearncombe (DSM). Of particular note, these were the first Royal Naval decorations of the war.
King George VI presenting decorations on
HMS Vernon's Parade Ground 19 Dec 1939
The recovery, investigation and exploitation of this first aircraft-laid German magnetic mine (British designation 'GA') enabled HMS Vernon to develop self-protective measures for Allied ships including degaussing coils that helped neutralise their magnetism. It also enabled the development of effective magnetic mine sweeps including the initial crude mine destructor ships containing huge electrical magnets in their holds shortly superseded by minesweepers deploying the highly successful Double L (LL) electrode sweep, used throughout the war. Thus, the German stranglehold on Allied shipping providing Britain's lifeblood at the outset of the Second World War was relaxed considerably.
King George VI with Capt Riley (SMD), Lt Cdr Ouvry and
the German magnetic mine at HMS Vernon 19 Dec 1939
It is quite fair to say that John Ouvry and his team left a proud and enduring legacy to all those involved in RN mine countermeasures and explosive ordnance disposal right up to the present day and beyond.
27 Aug 09
SDU2 to feature in TV programme
"The Royal Navy Bomb Disposal Divers are called out to save Dungeness beach from an unexploded World War 2 bomb caught in fishing nets."
Minewarfare & Divers' Middle East Dinner (MADMED)
Please see the 'Upcoming Events' page in the Members Only area for another update on this event which is due to be held on Friday 2 October.
26 Aug 09
Death and funeral arrangements for ex-CD Robin 'Stan' Holbrook
Rob 'Stan' Holbrook, aged 56, died in a commercial diving accident shortly after starting work with a new company off Vietnam earlier this month. He qualified as a CD in 1976 and later that year he was among the RN team that shifted 16,000 tons of mud and 320 blocks of stone during the movement of important Egyptian monuments submerged by the construction of the Aswan Dam. He also served in HMS Wilton.
Stan Holbrook (extreme right) at Aswan in 1976
(Photo courtesy of Mick Florence)
Stan's body has been repatriated to the UK and his funeral will take place on Friday 4 September at Poole Crematorium starting at 1300. As Stan detested wearing ties, his family has asked that mourners dress casually. A wake will be held afterwards at the Crown Hotel. All are welcome to attend both events.
Our condolences to Stan's family, especially his son Lewis and stepson Mark.
From MCDOA member Duncan Bridge:
I have every intention of being at this one on 4 September. It was on the front page of the IOW County Press [link]. The Holbrook family lived in Ryde when I knew Stan.
All the best,
RNPS memorial unveiled at National Memorial Arboretum
The Express & Star website contains this article describing the unveiling of the memorial dedicated to the Royal Naval Patrol Service (RNPS) at the National Memorial Arboretum near Lichfield on Sunday. The associated video is well worth watching too. See also this article on the Royal British Legion website.
'Harry Tate's Navy' veterans with RNPS memorial
at National Memorial Arboretum
Established in August 1939, with an initial fleet comprising 6,000 fishermen and 200 requisitioned trawlers, drifters, pleasure steamers and whaling vessels, the Royal Naval Patrol Service, otherwise known as 'Harry Tate's Navy', played a key part in the war effort. Growing to a force of 66,600 men and women, with 2,000 ships, and operating from the Arctic to the creeks of South East Asia, they worked tirelessly to keep lanes open to ports and were instrumental in enabling the successful D-Day landings.
Over 125,000 mines were laid in Europe alone during WWII and the impressive new memorial at the National Memorial Arboretum features a replica of the type that the Royal Naval Patrol Service had to clear. The memorial commemorates the 13,890 men who were lost, of whom 2,385 have no known grave. The sailors were drawn from fishing ports and other towns and cities across the UK. They were directed from the RNPS headquarters and base depot at HMS Europa, otherwise known as 'The Sparrow's Nest', in the municipal gardens at Lowestoft.
25 Aug 09 - News of HMS Atherstone
HMS Atherstone with HMS Pembroke outboard
at Abu Dhabi during a two-week long sandstorm
(RN website photo)
23 Aug 09 - HMS Cattistock at Bournemouth
22 Aug 09 - George Dance's Funeral
I have received this account of George Dance's funeral service from MCDOA past-Vice Chairman and ex-Superintendent of Diving, Jon Riches who lives in Normandy:
I attended George Dance's cremation yesterday at a place called Carhaix-Plouguer in the middle of Brittany. Thirteen of us attended (not including George!). His family was represented by his son Jon and wife. He heard about his father's death two days ago on return from holiday so he did a dirty dash to Brittany via Calais to be there in time.
The RNA was represented and I, as you know represented the MCDOA though I am not sure George was a member? The RBL was there with the local Chairman Rodney Curtis and a Standard Bearer. Jeannie and his French neighbours plus the Padre and undertaker made up the rest of the numbers. It was a simple ceremony finishing with The Last Post and Reveille. Jeannie and Jon were very grateful for the Service representation and that we made the effort to attend.
I will always remember George as a rumbustious, larger than life character who was good fun to be with.
All the best,
Lt John 'George' Dance RN
(16 May 1936 - 16 Aug 2009)
21 Aug 09 - Messages from Liz Ellis, Julie Poling (née Ellis) and Steve Ellis
I have received these messages from relatives of Dave Ellis (see entry for 16 Aug 09):
From Dave's ex-wife Liz:
We are now a week on since Dave's funeral and I personally would like to thank you for all the input into making it a memorable and fitting send off for Dave. He would have been delighted and touched to know so many "diving" colleagues came to say their farewells and raised a glass or two to send him on his last run ashore. He was a keen advocate of tot time when serving in HMS St Angelo so I know he would have found this more than apt as a toast to his memory.
Julie and Steven had been at his bedside during his last few days and were understandably very upset at losing their Dad, but with all the support of Dave's fellow Naval divers and the amusing tales you told of times spent with him, proved to be a huge comfort to them. It is such a sad loss for all the family but can you please convey to all who attended the funeral and sent messages of condolences a big, big, thank you!
From Dave's daughter Julie:
It has been a week since Dad's funeral and I'd like to express my appreciation for the help and effort you made in contacting ex-naval colleagues, informing them of my Dad's passing and subsequent funeral arrangements. I was touched by the attendance of ex-naval friends and the three serving divers who volunteered to be Dad's pall-bearers, it culminated in making Dad's final farewell extra special.
I am sure Dad would have fully supported the run ashore in Falmouth after his funeral and of course the tot of rum in his memory. Thank you for your kindness at such a difficult time.
From Dave's son Steve:
Just a quick email to convey to you my enormous thanks to you. I am humbled by the effort you and other members of the MCDOA made to make Dad's funeral as memorable as it was. The support provided by his ex-colleagues and the uniformed guys from Plymouth was way beyond my expectations and I know that Dad would have been very proud of his day.
The run ashore was most fitting and I know for certain that Dad would have appreciated this. Later on that evening, Julie and I, and family raised a glass to Dad from the Chain Locker ourselves whilst watching the fireworks display (Falmouth week?), also most fitting. Some coincidence!
May I also take this opportunity to send my condolences to George Dance's family who seem to have experienced a similar ordeal in France. I have a vague childhood recollection of George as he used to be a neighbour of ours (lived opposite us) in "Elderberry Way" [Cowplain near Portsmouth] during the 1970s.
Following on from Steve's e-mail, George Dance's funeral is being held at 1500 today in Brittany so spare a thought for him, his partner Jean and his family. His son Jonathan is travelling from Germany and the MCDOA will be represented by Jon Riches (past-Vice Chairman and ex-SofD). Representatives of the local RBL and RNA branches will also be present.
20 Aug 09
Minewarfare & Divers' Middle East Dinner (MADMED)
Please see the 'Upcoming Events' page in the Members Only area for an important update on this event which will now be held on Friday 2 October.
Petition seeks recognition for post-Falklands MCM Operations
The Ledbury Reporter website contains this article describing the campaign to have the South Atlantic Medal awarded to the ships' companies of HMS Brecon, HMS Ledbury and their support ship RMS St Helena (the previous one) for their post-conflict clean-up operations in the Falkands.
19 Aug 09 - Message from Joan Fleming
I have received this message from George Dance's sister, Joan Fleming (see first entry for 17 Aug 09):
"Dearest Members of the MCDOA,
Thank you for the kind words published in the last few days about our brother John, to whom the Navy gave the name 'George', I guess reflecting his North Eastern origins. For us it is so sad that John died so far away from home but then he was always 'overseas'.
I am thanking you on behalf of our family: his surviving four sisters, brothers-in-law, his children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews and cousins. John was the eldest in our family. You may know that one sister was a Wren, her husband was in the Fleet Air Arm and another sister a Naval Nurse [who married a member of the Royal Australian Navy] so we are very proud of his achievements as a diver and officer in the Royal Navy.
He joined as a boy seaman at HMS Ganges, aged 15. He served on HMS Concord as a very young lad. I was five when he joined but I recall him being in conflicts in Suez, Cyprus and the Far East. Like all Naval families we were always waiting for someone to come home on leave.
When he came back from Hong Kong sporting a huge galleon tattooed on his chest, our Mam cried for a week. I remember kit bags full of presents and being given a half crown to help press his "number ones". Our Dad loved his homecomings and reported escapades.
I teach in a University - he once said to me "When I say jump, a boy jumps - you hinny teach them to ask why - ask why and a diver could be dead." He also said once, "This is my sister a socialist feminist, I'm her brother a trained killer." He was trying that evening to impress a very pretty friend of mine, Edith, an art teacher !!!!!
When I visted him in hospital last year I knew he could not stay in England as Jean was in France. To be frank as I walked over Westminster Bridge I had very mixed feelings.
So thank you his fellow officers for your high regard of our brother John, who was your chum George Dance.
Sincerely and on behalf of the Dance Family,
Joan Fleming née Dance"
18 Aug 09 - HMS Quorn pays her respects to her predecessor
The Navy News website contains this article describing how the present day HMS Quorn has paid her respects to her predecessor, a Hunt Class destroyer sunk off Normandy in August 1944 with the loss of 130 lives.
Sailors pause to reflect on the sacrifices made
by the previous HMS Quorn off Normandy in 1944
(Navy News photo)
17 Aug 09
Crossed the Bar - John 'George' Dance
MCDOA past-Vice Chairman Jon Riches in France has informed me that ex-MCDO George Dance (LMCDO '73) eventually passed away yesterday afternoon at Guincamp Hospital near his home in Brittany, France (see entry for 13 Aug 09). Jeannie, George's long-term partner, was holding his hand when he expired. Jon has since had a long conversation with Jeannie and she is clearly having difficulty with what happens next but it looks as though George will be cremated. As the French do not like cremations, preferring to bury their loved ones, crematoria are few and far between.
Jon believes that George was not insured for his hospital expenses (three month's worth!) but a local SSAFA chum of his has taken on the case. Jon has agreed to represent the MCDOA when the cremation occurs. As he is also Vice Chairman of his French branch of the RNA, he has engaged the services of another chum to represent this organisation too. He has promised to keep me informed of events.
No one who ever met big, affable George with his booming voice and Geordie accent will ever forget him and the stories about him are legion. Our commiserations go to George's partner, Jeannie, and to members of his family.
Left: Junior Seaman 'George' Dance at HMS Ganges c.1952
Right: Lt 'George' Dance at HMS Vernon in 1973
From MCDOA past-President and LMCDO '73 graduate Richard Moore:
My good wishes and commiserations go to Jeannie and George's family. When I met George for the first time on day one of the 1973 LMCDO course, I was convinced that this 'larger than life' character was going to have a major impact on the team spirit of our course. Everything that happened in the following months confirmed my original thoughts and in particular his sense of humour would prove to be an asset when the going got tough.
He was always 'happiest' when in a rubber bag. Diving and Minewarfare Theory were never his strong points but his natural enthusiasm frequently carried him through.
A sad loss!!
From LMCDO '73 graduate Andy Stribley:
What sad news indeed for everyone who knew him, even if was only for five minutes, but clearly a welcome and needful release for him. George's presence on the '73 Long Course ensured that it was memorable in an almost epoch-making sense. If when a few minutes rest seemed possible, George's inevitable cry "Haway there Hinny" heralded the end of possible tranquility; it was none the less utterly irrestible in its call to action. George made our 'deep diving' trip to Guernsey as unforgettable as only he could (a surreal moment when a ballet dancer broke her leg at an RPC on our MFV) and could lift more heavy weights than the rest of us put together. I seem to remember that his mine-laying and sweeping expertise was better in practice than in theory, but he was mountainous when clagged in a CDBA.
George always sought to be a caring, kind and emotionally generous person to everyone around him and if 'Rest in Peace' is in any way suitable for George, then he deserves it.
From LMCDO '73 graduate Mike Kooner:
George has of course been ill for some time. You may recall that he came to England for a short visit to fix his heart. However, we did not know about the illness that finally defeated him.
As we know, he lived life to the full and was a large man with an even bigger heart. I too recall the many incidents, and the ballet dancer is classic. He actually "dropped" the young lady whilst carrying her and further injured the broken leg!
Our Long course could not be labelled dull. I do remember being "buddied" to George one particular day; what an experience. I did not know it was possible to be towed so fast underwater!
May he rest in peace and my deep condolences to his family.
From ex-CD Taff Galsworthy:
"George took us as baby divers to Devizes where we had a race with a boat up the locks. I went for a drink with him and saw the last of the old style officer divers. His humour was second to none and he was a genuine man. Needless to say, we got rather drunk but had a wonderful time
Rest in peace George. Commiserations to the family.
From ex-CD1 Perry Mason:
"Yet another in a long line of people from this branch whose acquaintance has left an indelible stamp on the memory of many of us. My heartfelt condolences go out to Jeannie on the loss of George; he was an officer and a gentleman of the highest order.
Rest in peace and be sure I will have a drink to your memory.
From ex-CD1 Cris Ballinger:
"I couldn't add anything more to what you have already written. George really was a man's man and his company was something to look forward to and certainly remember afterwards, and always with a smile.
He and Dave [Ellis] are already organising the next run ashore.
From ex-WO1(MW) Lee 'Barney' Barnett:
Just wanted to say how sad I was to learn of George's death. He really was a man's man and someone who (even with a drink on him) commanded the utmost respect from his subordinates; guys would do anything to 'Help'. I had the good fortune to be the Navy Days Buffer back in 1976 when he was I/C of the Diving Display. I have never laughed so much in my life.
He really was the Jack Shaloo One Boot One Shoe side of being a NATO Frontline attack frogman.
R.I.P 'Wour George'.
From ex-CD1 Paddy Heald:
"It has been very sad to hear of the passing of another esteemed member of the branch who would lead from the front with humour and an abundance of enthusiasm. As my basic CDs' course Officer, George has my highest respect.
May he rest in peace and my deepest sympathies are with George’s family at this very sad time.
From ex-CDO Brian 'Jumbo' Jervis in the USA:
So sad to hear about poor old George. I have passed this message onto Pincher [Gerry Martin] through Wendy if they have not changed their address.
From ex-CD Dickie Barrett in Cyprus:
Just to let you know I went into the MCDO page and have now been fully updated re George Dance. He was our boss on the Reclaim for many a deep diving trial. Lots of memories of George, they bring a smile to one's face every time I think of him and them. Sadly missed, he goes, like many before him, to join a good team of divers up there. My thoughts are with his family.
HMS Blyth to visit Barry, South Wales
According to this article on the Vale of Glamorgan website, HMS Blyth will visit the Barry Waterfront Tall Ships Festival during the weekend of 5/6 September and will be open to the public on the Saturday from 1400 to 1700 and on the Sunday from 1000 to 1700.
Royal Australian Navy’s new Disruptive Pattern Navy Uniform
See this page on the Australian Department of Defence website for what the RAN's well-dressed Clearance Diver and other naval personnel are wearing these days.
AB(CD) John Armfield (left) and S(CD) Todd Anderson (right) wearing
the new RAN Disruptive Pattern Navy Uniform (DPNU)
16 Aug 09 - Dave Ellis's funeral and its aftermath
MCDOA member Dave Ellis's funeral at Penmount Crematorium at Truro in Cornwall on Friday was attended by a wide range of relatives, friends and old naval colleagues. Family members included Dave's ex-wife Liz with Brian Rogers, her partner of 20 years, Dave's daughter Julie with her husband Garry and their children Kieran and Sophia, and Dave's son Steve with his wife Sue and their son Rhys.
MCDOA members present included Chris Thompson, Graham 'Tug' Wilson and Yours Truly (Rob Hoole). Chris and I were fellow students with Dave on the 1976 Long MCD Officers' Course and it was also good to see ex-CPO(D) Mick Kester, one of our instructors. Other RN Divers present included Cris Ballinger, Tim Hadley, Mick O'Leary, Chris 'Sandy' Sanders and Tim Sizer as well as Jim Gold who was an Artificer in the RN deep diving vessel, Seaforth Clansman. It was particularly good to see WO(D) Robin 'Rick' Rickard, LS(D) Ade Morris and AB(D) Craig Maddock from Plymouth-based Southern Diving Unit 1 (SDU1) who acted as uniformed pall bearers with Dave's son Steve.
Pall bearers at Dave Ellis's funeral including his son Steve and SDU1 members
Mourners entered the Kernow Chapel to the sound of 'Every Grain of Sand' by Bob Dylan. After a rendition of the hymn, 'Lord of all Hopefulness', Jeanette Holman, conducting the service, recounted Dave's life and career. She described how Dave was born in Pontypridd on 5 January 1946 but was brought up in north London. He joined the boys' training ship, T.S. Arethusa, when he was 14 and entered the Royal Navy at HMS Ganges the following year before being trained as a Radio Operator (General) at HMS Mercury. During leave periods, he worked at the Fyffes banana factory, an experience that apparently put him off bananas for life. He then served in the aircraft carrier HMS Eagle and RN communications centres at Chatham and in Malta where he met and married Liz. Their children, Julie and Steve were born sometime afterwards.
Dave's first car was a much cherished Mini Cooper. His other interests included home-brewing and providing garden produce for the table; he even propagated mushrooms in the cupboard under the stairs. He was promoted to Radio Supervisor (RS - Petty Officer equivalent) in the early 1970s and was subsequently commissioned. After courses at HMS St George and Britannia Royal Naval College, Dartmouth, he served as a Sub Lt in HMS Ark Royal during the filming of the popular TV series, 'Sailor'. He develped a keen interest in squash and the RN wind surfing club at Eastney and bought a camper van in which he travelled afar. After completing the 1976 LMCDO course, he served in HMS Iveston and the RN deep diving vessel Seaforth Clansman after qualifying as a saturation diver and supervisor. He also commanded the HMS Vernon-based Portsmouth & Medway Clearance Diving team and was a diving course officer. He met his new partner Rowena while working as the Deputy Area Sea Cadets Officer in London and settled near Penryn in Cornwall.
Dave was diagnosed with cancer on 21 February 2005 and he was supported during his inevitable decline by Rowena and his neighbour, ex-CD1 Cris Ballinger. They continued to enjoy Sunday lunches and fish and chip suppers at the Seven Stars pub and other venues in Penryn. Dave was admitted to the Mt Edgcumbe Hospice at St Austell on 17 July 2009 and succumbed 13 days later. The family wished to express its appreciation towards the staff for the excellent care they gave him during his final days. Jeanette completed her eulogy by reading a version of Bishop Brent's uplifting poem 'What is dying?'.
The congregation then sang the Naval Hymn 'Eternal Father' with the addition of the divers' verse penned by the venerable MCDOA member, 'Uncle Bill' Filer. There followed the committal to the accompaniment of 'I am Sailing' recorded by the ship's company of HMS Ark Royal. After the final blessing and prayers, mourners exited to the sound of 'I feel Good' by Nina Simone. I was able to take a few photos of attendees before people dispersed or went on to a reception at the Falmouth Beach Hotel. A special thanks to Rick Rickard, Ade Morris and Craig Maddock from SDU1 who had to return to their duties at Plymouth immediately after the service.
Left: Craig Maddock, Ade Morris, Rick Rickard, Mick Kester, Cris Ballinger and Chris Thompson
Right: Sandy Sanders, Tim Hadley, Chris Thompson, Mick Kester and Cris Ballinger
At the Falmouth Beach Hotel, I was able to catch up with Dave's family and some of the other attendees including a local chap called Joe who co-owned a boat with Dave which they used for sea angling off Falmouth. Steve and Julie had printed out all the e-mailed tributes to Dave and they were displayed along with several photos taken at various stages of his life and naval career.
Left: Liz Ellis flanked by daughter Julie and son Steve
Right: Liz Ellis with her partner Brian Rogers
Dave's son Steve with grandchildren
Rhys, Sophia and Kieran
LMCDO '76 instructor Mick Kester flanked by course
graduates Rob Hoole and Chris Thompson
The town of Falmouth is synonymous with RN divers of a certain vintage, including Dave, and some of us were unable to resist the temptation to revisit old haunts. Having changed into more appropriate clothing, apart from Sandy Sanders who remained in his suit, we decided to have one more run ashore in memory of Dave. Our first port of call was the Chain Locker where Tim Hadley provided tots of rum for us to toast Dave's memory.
Tim Hadley, Sandy Sanders, Tim Sizer, Rob Hoole, Cris Ballinger
and Tug Wilson raise a glass in Dave Ellis's memory
The photo above was taken by our vivacious waitress, Laura. As chance would have it, her boyfriend is currently under training at BRNC Dartmouth and is considering a future as an MCD officer.
Laura, our waitress at the Chain Locker
Our next port of call was Rumours Wine Bar run by Sandy's mother-in-law, Pat Harding. This gave us the opportunity to catch up on the latest Falmouth gossip.
Left: Pat Harding flanked by Tim Sizer and her son-in-law Sandy Sanders
Right: The boys with Pat at Rumours Wine Bar
It was then on to The Grapes for old time's sake where we ended up challenging this charming foursome from Truro to a game of pool.
Above and below: Pool in The Grapes - luckily there was no money riding on the outcome!
Despite the application of old age and treachery, we were soundly trounced but it was a very pleasant interlude. We then moved on to the local Balti house to complete our evening in traditional style with a curry. By now, our numbers had dwindled and only Tug Wilson, Tim Hadley, Tim Sizer and I remained of the original group.
Our hostess at the Balti house
No names, no pack drill but the pace had definitely taken its toll for a certain person although it should be borne in mind that he had set off from Portsmouth at 0600 that morning in order to attend the funeral at 1130.
The day takes its toll on some
All in all, there couldn't have been a better testimonial to Dave Ellis than a typical divers' run ashore in his favourite town and I'm sure he was with us in spirit. Once again, our sincere condolences to Steve and Julie and their families and to their mother Liz. We will never forget such a wonderful friend and colleague. More tributes to Dave have been added to the entry for 31 Jul 09.
Lt Cdr David Ellis RN
(5 Jan 1946 - 30 Jul 2009)
15 Aug 09 - HMS Quorn in the news
13 Aug 09 - George Dance seriously ill in France
Former FCPO(D) Michael 'Mick' Fellows has sent me this sad news about former MCDO George Dance:
Jeanie (John 'George' Dance’s partner) has informed me that George is in a bad way in hospital in France, where they live, suffering from the advanced effects of cancer throughout his body including the brain. He is expected to hang up his fins for the last time shortly.
The cancer was discovered during treatment for a fall whilst out walking last month. I’m informed that George is being administered large doses of morphine to ease his suffering and consequentially he is unable to communicate verbally.
Jeanie’s telephone number, which does not have a message facility, is ******** [available from Webmaster on request]. She is watch-keeping alongside George from 1000 till 1800 daily.
The hospital details are:
17 Rue Armor
BP 10548 22200
Tel: 00 33 2964 45656
George was renowned throughout the branch as a big man with an even bigger heart who always went out of his way to help others. Put in a good word for him to whomever you pray to.
Michael G Fellows MBE. DSC. BEM*. FIExpE. MWEODF. MSUT.
Fellows International Limited"
From MCDOA past-Vice Chairman Jon Riches in France:
Many thanks for your e-mail. I have just spoken to Jeanie and she has told me that George is steadily declining with his breathing becoming more laboured and he cannot communicate. As Mick said, he is under considerable sedation and the hospital staff have told Jeanie to start preparing funeral arrangements. He can however hear so I have asked her to pass to George that we are all thinking of him and how we all much enjoyed working and being with him in the Branch. She has my phone number and will keep me informed of developments.
Guincamp is about 150 miles from me. Owing to family commitments, I am unable to visit him until next week but I shall keep you informed and will try to attend his funeral representing the MCDOA when it comes.
11 Aug 09 - RN Divers' Golf Championship 2009
WO1(D) Steve 'Scouse' Vernon is organising the 21st Royal Navy Divers’ Golf Championship. The event will be held at Macdonald Botley Park Hotel Golf & Country Club and will start at 0900 on Friday 25 September 2009. It is open to all serving and ex-serving officers and ratings of the diving branch with a number of places reserved for invited sponsors. The competition will be played over 27 holes and will culminate in a barbeque and prize giving.
The format of the day will be full handicap stableford rounds (AM/PM) with a maximum handicap of 21. The RN Divers’ Golf Champion will be decided on the best stableford score over 27 holes. There is a strict limit of 55 players therefore entry will be on a first cheque, first place, basis. No post-dated cheques will be accepted. Should the competition be over-subscribed, individuals will be informed and placed on a reserve list. Cost of entry is £55 which includes coffee and bacon rolls on arrival, green fees, lunch and evening barbeque. A copy of the application form can be downloaded here.
10 Aug 09 - Project Vernon Carol Service
MCDOA President, Capt Colin Welborn RN, is organising a Carol Service in aid of Project Vernon on Thursday 10 December 2009 in St Barbara's Church, HMS Excellent. It will start at 1900 and tickets will cost £10 each. Mulled wine and mince pies will be served on completion.
This family event, open to all members of the RN Minewarfare and Diving community and their guests, will be a wonderful start to the Christmas season and provide the opportunity to meet old friends and colleagues. It will also provide the chance to see several artefacts from the chapel of St Adjutor in HMS Vernon including the diving helmet in which many a young paddler has been christened (all three of mine, for example).
If you live in the Portsmouth area, please give this festive occasion your full support. Book your tickets early by e-mailing Colin Welborn. Please advise him if you are willing to read a lesson or act as an usher.
8 Aug 09 - SDU2 detonates unexploded bomb at sea
Incidentally, the National Geographic TV Channel will broadcast a programme at 1500 on Wednesday 19 August in which "Royal Navy Bomb Disposal Divers are called out to save Dungeness beach from an unexploded World War 2 bomb caught in fishing nets." The programme is Episode 4 in the documentary series entitled 'Sea Patrol UK'.
7 Aug 09
SDU1 called out to Berrow in Somerset
The Burnham-on-Sea website contains this article describing a call-out for Plymouth-based Southern Diving Unit 1 (SDU1) to deal with a suspected piece of ordnance on the beach today at Berrow in Somerset. It features PO(D) Eddie Waring and includes several photos.
PO(D) Eddie Waring of SDU1 at Berrow
NDG blows up detonators found on beach
The Press & Journal website contains this article describing yesterday's disposal by Faslane-based Northern Diving Group (NDG) of detonators found on a beach on the uninhabited island of Linga in Shetland.
6 Aug 09 - Funeral Arrangements for Dave Ellis
During my absence over the past week, fellow LMCDO '76 course member Chris Thompson in Plymouth has been kind enough to help Dave Ellis's son Steve organise his father's funeral. WO(D) Robin 'Rick' Rickard of Southern Diving Group has also lent his much appreciated support. Chris has sent this e-mail providing details:
"I'm sorry that it has taken this very sad event for me to get in touch - I haven't been very good at maintaining networks. As one of the more 'westward' MCDOA members, I am happy to do what I can to help Steve Ellis by liaising with the MCD community.
The funeral is to be held at 1130 on Friday 14 Aug at:
It will be followed by a wake at the Falmouth Beach Hotel.
Family Flowers only, but donations to Mount Edgecumbe Hospice where Dave was being cared for until the end, (either at a retiring collection at the Funeral or direct to the Funeral Directors), would be welcome:
Mr Roy Sanders
Penryn & Falmouth Funeral Directors
50 Kernick Road
I have spoken with SDU2 here at Devonport and, all being well, WO Robin Rickard (to whom thanks for the warm response) hopes to be able to attend the funeral. It would be helpful for planning purposes if any of you who might be able to attend could let me know via this e-mail address. Those of an age still entitled to wear the uniform would be appreciated by Dave's family particularly to act as a pallbearer (to be briefed on site by the Funeral Directors).
I will be among those representing the MCDOA at the funeral and I have asked Soapy Watson, our Honorary Treasurer, to send a donation on behalf of the association in lieu of a floral tribute. I have received several more accolades for Dave from all over the world and am adding them to the first entry for 31 Jul 09 as they arrive.
From Dave Ellis's son Steve and daughter Julie:
Thanks very much for your kind words on the web site. Julie and I have just been reading the replies with much pride. If the authors of these comments don't mind, we may wish to use some of them for the service. If anyone has any further anecdotes of my father it would be very useful for us as well as interesting.
The Naval Hymn will almost certainly be used with the divers' verse. We just hope that enough people will know the tune.
Steve and Julie"
5 Aug 09
More news coverage for Project Vernon
Today's Portsmouth News contains this article describing progress with Project Vernon. Unfortunately, it contains several inaccuracies (e.g. the statue is not meant to focus primarily on naval divers and, although mounted on stone, it will actually be constructed of bronze) but it is welcome publicity nonetheless.
NDG called out to hoax IED in East Kilbride
The Scottish Sun website contains this article describing a call-out for Faslane-based Northern Diving Group (NDG) to a hoax improvised explosive device (IED) yesterday in East Kilbride near Glasgow. See also this article on the East Kilbride News website.
NDG responding in East Kilbride
4 Aug 09
Minehunter off on bomb mission
Today's Portsmouth News contains this article describing last Thursday's departure from Portsmouth of HMS Quorn for a NATO deployment that will include port visits to Ponta De Portuga in the Azores, New York, Bermuda, and Kiel in Germany.
HMS Quorn departing Portsmouth
(Portsmouth News photo by LA (Phot) Chris Mumby)
See also this article on the Royal Navy website.
(RN website photo)
Keeping it in the family
Today's Portsmouth News also contains this article describing the presence of two brothers serving together in HMS Atherstone. Lt Cdr Chis Nelson is the Commanding Officer and PO(MW) Philip Nelson is the Ops Room Supervisor. They can trace their ancestry back to Admiral Lord Nelson.
Lt Cdr Chris Nelson and his brother
PO(MW) Philip Nelson of HMS Atherstone
(Portsmouth News photo)
2 Aug 09 - Crossed the Bar - Graham 'Ras' Rasmussen
Ex-CD Terry Gosling has drawn my attention (among that of others) to this article on The Bury Free Press website containing details of the tragic death in a road accident of ex-CD Graham 'Ras' Rasmussen on 27 July. Our sincere condolences go to Linda, his wife of 35 years, and his two sons, Lee and Mark.
From ex-CD Don Middleton:
We have all had the pleasure of working with and knowing Ras. Very sad for Ras and his family that after a lifetime of exciting and dangerous but pleasing work, they/we have lost a fellow diver to a road accident before enjoying a well earned retirement.
VBR to all of you,
From ex-CD Mike O'Meara of Subsea:
This is very sad news, I worked with Ras during his time in 2W [Wharton Williams Diving Contractors] during the '70s and '80s. We all had some great fun together, on and offshore, and always managed to get the work done too. What a character, unforgettable. If you are able to get more news about arrangments etc, please let me know.
From ex-CD Phil 'Biff' Bailey:
Lots of bad news this week. Ras and I were on the Tender Carrier and had some good runs ashore, He was a good hand as one would say.
Phil Bailey MSc CMIOSH
Principal Subsea Engineer
1 Aug 09 - Navy News items
The August issue of Navy News contains these items of MCDOA interest:
31 Jul 09
Crossed the Bar - David Ellis
Ex-CD1 Cris Ballinger has informed me that MCDOA member Dave Ellis died last night at the Mt Edgcumbe Hospice at St Austell in Cornwall after a protracted illness. Cris had spent the past few days at his bedside but I was reluctant to publish news of his condition until I secured the permission of his son, Steve.
Dave, an SD ex-RS, and I were on the 1976 LMCDO Course with Paul Baines, Bernie Bruen, Jim Hewitt (later transferred back to the Canadian Navy), Terry Iles, Grenville Johnson, Gerry Kelly (later transferred to the Royal Australian Navy), Chris Meatyard, Kjell Rein (Royal Norwegian Navy), Chris Thompson and Steve Wild. Our Course Officer was Ralph Mavin and our Course Instructors were Joe Maher and Mick Kester.
Dave later relieved me as LTO at HMS Vernon and was Course Officer for LMCDO '84A and LMCDO '84B. Like me, he was also involved with the Saudi Minehunter Project. His career spanned the full gamut of MCD jobs at sea and ashore and he even returned as a Full Time Reservist to help administer the Sea Cadet organisation in London. He spent most of his latter life on his smallholding near Truro in Cornwall.
Steve Ellis informs me that his father's funeral is to take place in Cornwall and I have put him in touch with Chris Thompson who lives and works in Plymouth. I have also passed Steve, his mother Liz and his sister Julie our sincere condolences.
Left: Dave Ellis performing C&M at Horsea Island in 1976
Right: Off watch moment - Liz & Dave Ellis with me playing the fool
From LMCDO '84 graduate John Burden:
So sad to hear news of Dave Ellis, just dreadful, not been a good year for our course. I think I have missed much of what is going on as my e-mail is probably not correct on your contact list. If you could amend to it to this, that should do the trick.
From MCDOA member Mike Kooner:
Unfortunately I cannot make it to Dave's funeral but please pass on my condolences. I do have many a story about David, who always reminded me of Del Boy Trotter!
We will not talk about his run in with the law in his own home one particular Christmas, ending with him in the clink! But from then on he always had a merry quip about his brushes with "authority." Whether it was being stopped on the M27 on his bike, or at OSPREY gate by the MOD plods. He always told the story in a humourous, self-effacing manner with a touch of the Trotter twang!
I was so sad to hear of his death and even sadder not to know he was ill. Also the news about George is not good, I assume that Mick Fellows will try and keep us posted. I do not know his partner Jeannie, but will attempt to communicate with her.
From LMCDO '76 graduate Bernie Brüen in France:
APPROACH TO THE GREEN
(As in Fiddlers’ Green - The Legendary Valhalla of Sailors)
I look across the chart that is my life
And see, like ports and harbours,
Tidal creeks and streams,
All the happy times and oft' the ones of strife
That filled me with a joy of living and of dreams.
Yet many, lying soft like pools of misty grey,
But half remembered, never whole and clear to see,
Quietly and unnoticed, slide away
And softly lock their doors and hide away the key.
No more shall they be seen, nor bide
With me, that others share what I still know they are.
Like unknown shadow shapes of eventide
They fly; they fade in misty dreams afar.
And as I drift and let life slide me by,
So one by one each hatch is shut and locked and barred;
'Til only one direction, one last door I spy
And there a shining figure, sword in hand, stands guard.
N.B. This poem is one of several Bernie has had published at www.warpoetry.co.uk/Bernie_Bruen_poetry.html.
From LMCDO '76 graduate Terry Iles in Guernsey:
"Really sorry to hear the sad, sad news about Dave Ellis. I will be thinking of you all on 14 Aug and am sure you will give him a marvellous send off.
From LMCDO '76 graduate Gerry Kelly in Australia:
"Hi fellow course mates,
Just received the sad news of Dave's passing. Thanks for tracking me down Rob, much appreciated. Please remember me to Dave's wife. We did meet during and after our course but, as I count on my fingers, it would be a few years now.
To the rest of you, it's good to see you are still in circulation. I've been here a while now, family grown up and two grandchildren in the Kelly fold. One of each to each of my daughters. Eldest is an accountant and youngest a mechanical engineer.
I finished full time service in the RAN after 27 years. Made Cdr (surprise!), two drives out of Darwin in patrol boats and a shore command in Sydney at HMAS Waterhen (MCM and Diving Forces) plus a bunch of staff jobs in Canberra and at Fleet in Sydney and a three year stint running diving training in the RAN. Finished off in the INT world and a tour as an Embed in the US Embassy in Baghdad. Settled in the Hunter Valley (about 160 kms North of Sydney).
I do some tax free reserve time but mostly I drive a road train (52.3m long, Prime mover + three trailers) or a B-Double configuration (26m, Prime + two trailers) for an owner operator. Ship steel and general freight to Cairns and return with bananas from Innisfail; a round trip of just under 5,000 kms in five days. See lots of the bush! and a great change from Navy life (which I still sometimes miss... but not for long!). Kelly the Truckie! Hunter is well known for its vineyards and I have some acres in a quiet place called Congewai.
Contact details attached and it would be good to hear from you all. If you find yourselves in our 'Great Southern Land' you are most welcome to stay.
From LMCDO '76 graduate Jim Hewitt in Canada:
Thank you very much for asking Chris Deere to let me know about David. It’s probably too late now to pass on to his family my condolences, but if not please do so.
Last time I saw David was during Operation CIMNEL in the Gulf in early 1988, just before I transferred back to the RCN. He had just a few weeks earlier had a tangle with the props and rudders of a frigate which nearly led to an untimely underwater demise. Not too much the worse for wear from that, he was our host for HMS Battleaxe's visit to Dubai, and he did an excellent job in setting us up with the local ex-pats.
I was also saddened to hear of Dusty Miller’s death. We were the minesweeping team for the first week of the MCMG courses for some 18 months, and he kept me on the straight and narrow during my first few outings, and saved a few arms and legs on the sweepdeck on more than one occasion.
These things have just reminded me how rapidly life moves on, and I need to improve my efforts at keeping in touch with old comrades, especially as I neglected to thank you for the info you sent to Ralph Dreimanis when I retired last year. Accordingly, I’ve just sent off my application to the MCDOA. As soon as I’m signed up, I will send you a rundown on what I’ve been up to and, if you can believe it, I now work as a contractor for the Canadian Army!!!
From LMCDO '76 graduate Steve Wild:
I am so sorry to read that Dave Ellis has “passed over”.
From LMCDO '76 Course Instructor ex-CPO(D) Mick Kester:
Sorry to hear the sad news about Dave Ellis. I can remember him quite well on his LMCDO course although I believe I only met him again shortly after his qualification and our paths never crossed again. And to think he's only a few miles from Plymouth...
From ex-CD and author of 'Diver' Tony Groom:
He was one of life's Nice Blokes. He was my Boss more than once, but he was also a mate. Not an easy trick to pull off that. The things he had to deal with just on one deep work up in Rothsay would boggle the mind nowadays, but he sailed through, always laughing. I for one will miss him.
Dave Ellis (The Boss) in red hat
(Photo from Tony Groom)
From MCDOA past-Treasurer Graham 'Tug' Wilson:
"Tim Sizer and I will attend the funeral. Dave was my Course Officer on CD2s' course in 1981 and Boss on the Clansman. He also raised my CW papers!
From LMCDO '84A graduate Chris Lade:
Thank you for letting me know of Dave’s death. He was a perfect foil to Pete Still; and his mild-mannered approach to his students was a welcome contrast to the old chief. I will never forget how he performed when Steve had his accident. He was the consummate professional and had it not been for him there is little doubt Steve would not have made it. He was the first there and undoubtedly saved Steve’s life.
I had no idea he was unwell and would be grateful to know of the funeral arrangements. Please pass my sympathies to the family. I know only too well how hard these times will be for them.
From LMCDO '79 graduate Allan Rankin in Australia:
Sorry to hear the sad news of the recent deaths of both Dusty Miller and Dave Ellis. Both of these gentlemen will be remembered fondly, particularly Dusty because of his role as the Chief Mine Warfare Instructor to LMCDO 79. May they rest in peace.
I will ensure that Gerry Kelly is informed of Dave’s passing.
From MCDOA member Ian Morton:
I spent many a happy week in Falmouth and Oban with Dave when he was DIVO1 and I was DIVO2 at the school. I learned to windsurf on his board at Eastney in the early days of the Portsmouth Naval Windsurfing Club and spent many a wonderful day on the beach at Eastney with Dave, Liz and the kids. I was his relief in the Saudi Minehunter project in 1994.
He is another sad loss too early in life.
From ex-CD1 Mick O'Leary:
"So saddened to hear the news about Dave.
I had the privelege of working under Dave when he was boss of P&MCDT in 1980/81...some great memories of some really fun times. A great bloke. My prayers and thoughts are with Dave and his family.
From ex-CD1 Colin 'Nutty' Carr:
"I first met Dave when he was Boss of the Pompey bomb team in 1979. Later we served together in Vernon school and again with him and Cris on the Clansman.
It’s always great to have a good boss and Dave was definitely one of the best. His ability to communicate with people at every level, I know made him popular with everyone. There isn’t enough space here to tell all the tales we shared together; I know lots of us will have similar memories. I’m sure he will be sadly missed by his family and my thoughts and condolences go out to them. And I know he will be missed by everyone whose path he crossed.
I will raise a glass in a celebration of his life.
From ex-WO(D) Chris 'Spike' Hughes in Qatar:
"Sorry to hear the sad news of Dave's passing.......lots of Famouth dits to tell, but perhaps not appropriate for this forum.
I was lucky to have the team of Dave and Cris Ballinger as my Leading Divers' Course Officer and Instructor respectively. Their professionalism and common sense approach to training made the course one of my best periods in the Branch.
I've attached a photo of Dave and Cris with some of the scallywags of the Course onboard a FDT during the deep-phase in Falmouth.
Dave Ellis (centre) with Leading
Divers' Course at Falmouth
From ex-CD1 Harry Wallace:
"I had the pleasure of working with Dave as my Boss on several occasions while in Pompey, he was a great guy and always had time to talk, my thoughts and prayers are also with Dave his family at this time, another great loss for the branch.
From 1983 CD1 and LMCDO '84A & '84B Course Instructor Peter Still:
"It is with such a heavy heart that I convey my own deep sorrow at learning of Dave's last dive. I have had the privilege of working with him on a number of occasions and loved every minute of my time with him. He was a wonderful boss to work for and I will always be grateful for the exceptional times we had."
From ex-CD1 Phil 'Ozzie' Hammond:
"Ditto Pete, Dave was an exceptional Boss and course officer. He was our boss on the CD1s' course you instructed with Henry Minn, Shep Sheppard, Hank Hancock, Spike Spears, Chris Christie and myself. I was very saddened to hear of his early departure from us and my thoughts are with his family.
Rest in peace Dave.
From ex-CD1 Steve Bielby:
"I was very fortunate in having Dave as my Course Officer for the duration of my CD1s' course in 1983. Dave had a unique and gentle way about him but at the same time very professional in all that he did for us. Peter [Still] was our course instructor and the professional bond between him and Dave was evident to me even then as a young PO and aspiring CD1. They both gave me something to aim for and Dave particularly always had time to share his thoughts on our performance whilst on course.
We shared a drink together and I can remember him offering his excuses to leave early as he was studying with the televised Open Universitey at the time and his lessons were at the most ungodly hours. As many have said, a nice bloke, great course Officer and no doubt a good friend too to many of us.
RIP Dave, 5 Bells.
From LMCDO '84B graduate Clive Rogerson somewhere in the Mediterranean:
Thank you for passing the very sad news. Please pass my condolences to Dave's family.
I wasn't aware that Dave was ill but it's hard to keep up with events when I live and work abroad. I was looking forward to seeing Dave at the next MCDOA Dinner - he will certainly be missed by the guys of LMCDO '84A & B. I'll do my next dive for Dave.
Captain, MY Mirgab V"
From LMCDO '83B graduate David 'Topsy' Turner in New Zealand:
Having paid my weekly visit to the website I learn of the untimely, sad and heartbreaking news of Dave's passing.
As you will remember, Dave was your relief for our LMCDO Course (83B) just prior to our deep diving phase in Falmouth. With his passion for all things Cornish (pasties, ice cream, pixies and the odd beer) it didn't take us too long to get to know our new Boss when we would prise him out of his flat in Falmouth somewhere and drag him along to the Grapes and other pubs along the road.
After qualifying I would often meet up with Dave at Southsea where we'd windsurf opposite Eastney Barracks, although I have to say he was always a far, far better surfer than I could ever dream to become. I distinctly remember buying his Mini Cooper from him which went into the back of our removals truck when we moved up to Rosyth after taking HMS Ledbury (Lt Cdr Steve Gobey) out of Vospers, Old Portsmouth after a refit following the funnel fire in 1984.
A gentle man with a mellow cockney accent, Dave will be missed by a great many people far beyond the diving fraternity.
Topsy David Turner
J53 Operational Plans
From MCDOA President Colin Welborn:
David's death is so close to home. I had no idea he was ill until your e-mail last week. I am committed to a BRNC camp with 300 cadets next week but will make every effort to be at David's funeral. He and I spent much time together, especially during his ASBO and our 'blue' light lunch with CinC. Brian Dutton fixed it, I think?
From LMCDO '84B graduate Jon Chapple in Canada:
Thanks for adding Dave's Long Course students to the address list. This is sad news indeed and a real shock. There is a special and unstated bond between LTO and LMCDO course that endures throughout one's career. Dave was one of the best and set each of his course students a high standard to emulate. His passing is especially poignant as we approach the 25th anniversary of LMCDO 84A and B. He will be missed.
From LMCDO '84A graduate Steve Marshall in the USA:
I would like to endorse what Jon has said and this is very sad news. I, of course, owe a huge debt of gratitude to Dave as he saved my life in 1984 when I had the diving accident. I will, of course, never foget that. He was an excellent LTO to us on course and I learnt much from him as a fellow SD new to the branch.
I am working in the USA at the moment, for the next three weeks and will drink a few beers for Dave tonight with the USN divers I am training.
S M Marshall DSC
Diving Support Manager
Carleton Life Support Systems"
N.B. For those who don't know, Steve's diving accident involved a catastrophic 'soda lime cocktail' at 180 ft which resulted in an unavoidably rapid free ascent requiring emergency therapeutic treatment.
Service of Celebration for the life of ex-CPO(MW) Dusty Miller
Anthony Keith (Dusty) Miller
(5 June 1948 - 13 July 2009)
It was standing room only at Portchester Crematorium this afternoon with over a hundred present for a 'Service of Celebration for the Life of ex-CPO(MW) Anthony Keith 'Dusty' Miller' (see entry for 13 Jul 09). Apart from family and friends, there were representatives from the Anti-Submarine Warfare Instructors' (ASWIs' - formerly TASIs') Association, the Minewarfare Association (MWA), the MCDOA, the Association of RN First Class Divers (AORNFCD), Portsmouth's Continental Ferry Port and Portchester Social Club. Familiar faces included Taff Reader, Pete Whitehead, Dixie Dean and Nigel 'Slim' Sizer of the MWA and Stew 'George' Sissons of the AORNFCD.
The Service was conducted by the Revd Paul Miles-Knight and attendees entered the chapel to the sound of Elgar's 'Nimrod' played by organist Judith Williams. After the welcome, introduction and prayers, the congregation sang 'Love Divine' before hearing the lesson read by the Padre: 'They that go down to the sea in ships...' from Psalms, 107:23-30. Dusty's son Adrian, who is hoping to enter the police force, then provided a moving tribute to his father describing the times they shared pursuing Dusty's interest in cars, boating, cricket, formula one racing, photography, cooking and gardening. Adrian described a particular occasion when Dusty was stopped by the police in Fareham and asked whether there was any medical reason for him not wearing a seatbelt. "Yes, amnesia," answered Dusty before the police let them proceed on their way. Dusty's daughter Carol then read a poem about loss.
After more prayers, the congregation sang the Naval Hymn (Eternal Father) before the commendation, committal and blessing. We then moved to Portchester Social Club to raise a glass in Dusty's memory and I had the opportunty to pass on our condolences to Dusty's widow Diane, his son Adrian and his daughter Carol. Diane has kindly given me permission to reproduce the photo of Dusty from the front of the Order of Service, taken when he was running his own gardening business after he finished working at the Continental Ferry Port.
From ex-CPO(TASI) Pete Sowdon:
Phil Wratten and I attended Dusty’s funeral the other day and it was lovely to see so many “old ships” there, although we did not recognise everybody - must be our old age!! It was great to rekindle our friendship with Diane. My wife used to be in touch with her when they both worked for the Met Police - Helen in Eastern Docks Dover and I believe Diane in London.
Dusty and I first met when he joined the Mine Warfare section at HMS Vernon just after he had qualified as a TASI – we travelled together to Scotland on many occasions when we attended as mine-hunting and mine-sweeping instructors. He was a good ‘run ashore oppo’ known affectionately as ‘Dusty Miller Mine Warfare’ – another one of the old school……gone but not forgotten.
PS: Regards to Brian Dutton and Dan Nicholson, should they still remember me."
I have forwarded Pete's e-mail to Brian Dutton and Dan Nicholson in the hope that they get in touch with him.
29 Jul 09 - Hauling Down messages
I have received copies of the following 'hauling down' messages from the departing Commanding Officers of two minehunters:
From Lt Cdr David Morgan RN of HMS Cattistock (23 July 09):
"It has been several months since the last Newsletter and, having then been alongside waiting to go into dry-dock, it's fair to say that things have progressed more than a little in the meantime. HMS Cattistock docked down in December and, after a busy maintenance period, she emerged from the dock in April with a fresh coat of the newest hi-tech paint to keep the hull cleaner for longer (and therefore making us go faster) and overhauls or updates to much of the on board machinery and equipment.
We conducted trials at sea during April and May to prove that all the systems were working correctly before conducting minehunting training off Portsmouth and Weymouth. On 6th June we anchored off Torquay to take part in their D-Day Memorial Parade, which was a particularly poignant experience for the members of the ship's company who were able to take part. The stories of the veterans were memorable and put things into a new perspective. In the middle of June, we became the first Royal Navy warship in over 30 years to open the ship up to visitors in Londonderry. After that, we headed for Loch Goil, near Glasgow, to conduct noise ranging before heading around the top of Scotland to conduct magnetic ranging off Burntisland near Edinburgh. Both sets of ranging are to ensure that we have the least chance of activating any mines.
HMS Cattistock passing under Foyle Bridge
(RN website photo)
We were privileged to take part in the first National Armed Forces Day in Chatham on 27th July. We were the largest unit to take part in the river display and simulated the lead unit of a patrol heading upriver, accompanied by two patrol craft. The Royal Engineers in their boats simulated an attack on us and we beat them off with our GPMGs, miniguns and the assistance of a Royal Marines boat, an Apache, Lynx and a Sea King, the last of which fast-roped Royal Marines into the attacking craft. We then blew up the enemy HQ with our 30mm cannon before continuing upriver. All in a day's work...
We have since conducted more minehunting training and are now due to go on Summer Leave. After leave, we are looking forward to taking part in the Air Show off Bournemouth and, in conjunction with RFA Mounts Bay, we will be supporting their operation to rescue hostages from a ship before helping Royal Marine Reservists storming Bournemouth beach (for exercise only, I am assured).
We have been working up for Operational Sea Training (OST) in September and October before we deploy to the Gulf. My relief, Lt Cdr James Byron, will be joining in August and I am sure he will write to introduce himself before the ship deploys in the New Year.
It has been a great pleasure to command HMS Cattistock and I have been delighted to continue our affiliation, which I hope will endure long into the future.
From Lt Cdr Andy Lamb RN of HMS Shoreham (18 July 09):
"I write to provide you with an update of 'your ship'. Since we last visited Shoreham-by-Sea in March the ship has been busy undertaking a range of activities including strategic underwater reconnaissance around UK and various routine maintenance packages. Much of our focus recently has been concentrated on preparing the ship and crew for an intensive five week period of training. This infamous period of high activity and intense training/assessment includes examining the material state of the ship and how we operate her; from counting peas to firing weapons it is all assessed. The training comes thick and fast and I am pleased to report that we have progressed well and that Shoreham and her ship's company have performed admirably.
HMS Shoreham visits Shoreham-by-Sea
In many ways it seems like yesterday I wrote informing you that Crew 7 had taken over in 'your ship' and already we are preparing to hand her over in order that we can head to the Gulf and take over in our sister ship HMS Pembroke. I have been in regular contact with your new CO (Lt Cdr Antony Crabb) and have kept him updated with news of our affiliation. He and his team have been in the Gulf for the last six months and are looking forward to joining. We are also examining possible options for another home town visit; the plan unconfirmed at this stage but Antony will be in touch once a date is known.
It has been a pleasure to command Shoreham and I have very much enjoyed our affiliation. Crew 7 will soon be heading home for some well deserved leave before flying out to the Gulf in August. Thank you for all your support over the past 12 months and we wish you all the best for the future.
Good luck to both David and Andy in their future appointments.
26 Jul 09 - Project Vernon Promotional Weekend at Gunwharf Quays
It is Sunday afternoon and I have just left the Project Vernon stand at Gunwharf Quays in the capable hands of ex-COMMW and past MCDOA President Richard Moore (who had driven up from Devon), former WO(MW) Dixie Dean MBE, former CPO(D) Peggy Neil, ex-SofD and founding MCDOA Chairman David Sandiford and former CPO(D) Mike Handford. MCDOA member Martyn Holloway and former WO(D) John Dadd BEM were due on staton later in the day. Thanks mainly to Dixie's organisational skills and sheer effort, we have enjoyed a highly successful promotional weekend with a gratifying amount raised for the project through the sale of limited edition prints of John Terry's superb oil painting 'Danger at Depth', copies of supplementary sketches and tickets for the Grand Summer Draw. A fair bit, including the odd twenty pound note, was also thrown into the collection buckets by casual passers-by.
Project Vernon promotion stand before opening time
Gunwharf Quays Managing Director Peter Emery, a patron of Project Vernon, kindly provided a good pitch and a display stand free of charge. This was embellished with a cutaway Mk 17L moored contact mine, a Diving Set Self-Contained Clearance Diver (DSSCCD - final version of old CDBA), a rolling computerised presentation and various posters and flyers. Project Manager Dave Carey even flew in from Dubai with some smart shirts monogrammed with the Project Vernon logo to give the volunteer staff a smart corporate image.
Left: Chris & Dave Carey, Dixie Dean and Martyn Holloway prepare for business
Right: Pauline Sandiford looks on as Dixie checks in
One of the early visitors yesterday was ex-FCPO(D) Mick Fellows MBE* BEM DSC, accompanied by his wife, who engaged in conversation with David Sandiford and Dave Carey.
Left: Mick Fellows conversing with Project Manager Dave Carey and David Sandiford
Right: David Sandiford, Dixie Dean and Mike Handford deal with plenty of public interest
Richard Moore with Peggy Neil
Many people with past connections to HMS Vernon stopped for a chat including WO(MW) Andy Strickland, the Executive Warrant Officer (EWO) of HMS Westminster. Even one of the Gunwharf Quays security guards, Michael Blake, donated a Siebe Gorman diving knife with brass scabbard and blue Sam Brown for auction in aid of the project. Michael was a Royal Marine bandsman in the 1970s and dived with the RN quite often during his career. There was tremendous interest shown by the public although it was a bit sad to meet some trainees from the Maritime Warfare School at HMS Collingwood who had never heard of HMS Vernon and its significant achievements. The monument and accompanying display will certainly fix that!
Left: Peggy Neil tells it like it was
Right: Mike Handford explains a finer point
A particular highlight of the day was a chance visit by AB(Sea) Kay Marsh of HMS Daring who purchased a set of John Terry's sketches to send to her good friend, AB(D) Matthew Morton of HMS Atherstone, currently deployed in the Gulf. Another satisfied customer was Chris Green, past Vice Chairman of the Ton Class Association (TCA), who bought a book of raffle tickets.
Left: Kay Marsh looking delighted with her purchase from Dixie
Right: Dixie with a happy Chris Green
On Saturday night a few volunteers, who all happened to be MCDOA members, gathered for a meal with their wives in the Loch Fyne fish restaurant occupying a wing of Vulcan Building rebuilt at Gunwharf Quays after having been destroyed during the Blitz. Clockwise from left to right are Dave Carey, Pauline Sandiford, David Sandiford, Audrey Dutton, Brian Dutton, Ann Holloway, Martyn Holloway, Linda Hoole, Yours Truly (Rob Hoole) and Chris Carey.
MCDOA Project Vernon volunteers
gather for dinner at Gunwharf Quays
I would just like to say a final thank you to all who volunteered to serve on the stand, especially organiser Dixie Dean, as well as those others who turned up to offer their moral and financial support. Particular thanks also to Southern Diving Unit 2 (SDU2) for arranging the delivery and collection of the mine and DSSCCD. Watch this space for future Project Vernon events. Have you done your bit yet?
24 Jul 09 - HMS Daring commissioned
Congratulations to MCDOA member Paddy McAlpine, the Captain of HMS Daring, on a successful commissioning ceremony yesterday as described in this article in the Portsmouth News.
Paddy McAlpine with the Countess of Wessex at the commissioning of HMS Daring
at Portsmouth on 23 July 2009
(RN website photos)
23 Jul 09 - SDU2 Callout
According to this article on the Norwich Evening News 24 website, members of Southern Diving Unit 2 (SDU2) were on their way to East Anglia tonight to deal with an unexploded shell.
22 Jul 09
Ancient and Modern
I am grateful to MCDOA Honorary Treasurer & Membership Secretary, Richard 'Soapy' Watson, for providing this item:
ANCIENT AND MODERN
(the kit, not the people)
Friday 17th July 2009 On the day that the trial of the new Clearance Diving Life Support Equipment (CDLSE) diving equipment completed, the Deputy Commander-in-Chief Fleet, Vice Admiral Richard Ibbotson CBE DSC (who was a Ship’s Diver for over 30 years), achieved a personal ambition to dive in historical standard diving dress while visiting the Defence Diving School (DDS). The divers, comprising Lt Cdr Richard 'Soapy' Watson (CDLSE Trials Officer & DTO(N) DDS - right) and LS(D) Ian Rigg (CDLSE Trial Team member - left) wearing the new equipment (they are the ones in black!), entered the water of Horsea Lake with Vice Admiral Ibbotson. Meanwhile, members of the Historical Diving Society (HDS) did the really hard work of turning the hand pump that supplied the air while the Admiral was in the water.
Vice Admiral Richard Ibbotson flanked by
LS(D) Ian Rigg and Lt Cdr Soapy Watson
This picture is a good one for the divers. I served in HMS Hurworth as an AB(D) during the 1991 Gulf War with the now CPO(D) John “Yo-Yo” Ravenhall as an AB(D) and Peggy Neil as the Coxswain. Hurworth was the lead ship with the then Lt Cdr Richard Ibbotson in Command and we disposed of 13 LUGM 145 mines. Right to left below are LS(D) Ian Rigg, LS(D) Rob Sewell (back), Peggy Neil, WO(D) Graham Haran, CPO(D) Yo-Yo Ravenhall, me and PO(D) Smudge Smith.
Vice Admiral Ibbotson with DDS trials personnel
including old shipmates
The new diving equipment brings Naval Divers to the very forefront of technology and capability, providing them with a single set that, depending how it is configured, can be used for shallow water work or take them to extreme depths and is equipment that puts Royal Navy divers back at the leading edge of military capability worldwide. Greater detail of the equipment will be available in October when Cdr Paul Jones [Superintendent of Diving and MCDOA Chairman] makes the CDLSE press release.
Vice Admiral Ibbotson in more familiar apparel
(RN website photo)
Vice Admiral Ibbotson will be the guest speaker at the MCDOA's Annual Dinner at HMS Excellent on 20 November 2009.
Navy and Army "Centurions" combine forces for "Barbarian stomp!”
The RN website contains this article describing a walk along Hadrian's Wall by RN and Army personnel in aid of Service charities. Not strictly MCDOA-related but the article does contain this photo with HMS Hurworth in the background:
Navy 'Centurions' pose with HMS Hurworth
(RN website photo)
21 Jul 09 - Funeral arrangements for former CPO(MW) Dusty Miller
Former WO(MW) Lee 'Barney' Barnett has informed me that the funeral of former CPO(MW) Dusty Miller, MW Module Instructor for LMCDO '79 (see entry for 13 Jul 09) among other achievements, will take place at 1400 on Friday 31 July at Portchester Crematorium.
All are invited to Portchester Social Club, Castle Street, Portchester on completion of the service. The family has asked that no flowers be sent and that any donations in lieu (RNLI or RNBT) be forwarded to: Taylor & Wallis Funeral Directors, 125-127 West Street, Portchester, Hampshire PO16 9UF.
20 Jul 09 - New Personal Update
The Members Only area contains an update and this photo from MCDOA member Dave Hunkin in Bahrain.
RN/USN EOD Group in Bahrain
(Cdr Dave Hunkin RN, Cdre Brian Brakke USN,
Cdre Vince Martinez USN, Cdr John Craig RN)
19 Jul 09 - New Personal Update
The Members Only area contains an update from Cdre Gary Collier RNZN.
17 Jul 09
New artist's impression of Project Vernon monument
Project Vernon is the campaign to erect a monument, comprising a bronze statue of a diver wearing old-type CDBA with a Mk17L moored contact mine fouled by a length of sweepwire and explosive cutter, at Gunwharf Quays in Portsmouth to commemorate the mine warfare & diving heritage of HMS Vernon which stood previously on the site. This heritage includes the WW II mining department, the Minewarfare School, the Admiralty Experimental Diving Unit, the Diving School, the mine countermeasures vessels that berthed on its jetties, the clearance diving teams and all the men and women who served in connection with them. In its broadest sense, it will represent the entire RN and other Commonwealth navies' mine warfare and diving community – past, present and future.
Fleet Graphics Officer Steve Williams has just produced this inspirational artist's impression of the Project Vernon monument in position at Gunwharf Quays in what was once Vernon Creek.
Artist's impression of Project Vernon monument
The nearly twice life-size bronze statue, crafted by acclaimed Australian sculptor Les Johnson FRBS, is intended to be on a scale that makes it impossible to ignore by the thousands of visitors who frequent Gunwharf Quays each day. It will be a lasting tribute to naval mine warfare, explosive ordnance disposal and diving including the mine warfare specialists, divers and everyone else involved in conducting, teaching and supporting these operations, ashore and afloat, particularly those who passed through the gates of HMS Vernon. A plaque or interactive display will be installed at the water's edge to explain this heritage to passers-by.
This is an ambitious project costing over £250k but it needs to be to match the stature of the people involved and their significant achievements. Every penny will count but it will take more than the odd fiver or tenner to see it reach fruition. Whatever your connection, if you are as proud of your naval mine warfare and diving heritage as I am, then dig deep (for old time's sake, I've covered the cost of his Rolex, a fin and a suit inflation bottle). Go to the Project Vernon website and make a generous donation now or spread a few smaller donations over a longer period.
John Terry's 'Danger at Depth'
Don't forget to attend our Project Vernon promotion weekend at Gunwharf Quays Sat 25 and Sun 26 July if you are in the area. You will have the opportunity to buy tickets for our Grand Summer Draw or order limited edition prints of John Terry's superb oil painting, 'Danger at Depth' with all proceeds going towards the Project.
Martin Mackey completes ACSC
Congratulations to MCDOA member Martin Mackey on completing the Advanced Command and Staff Course (ACSC) at the Defence Academy, Shrivenham. He has sent me this note and photo:
"...I'm on leave now having completed ACSC today. We were entertained for half an hour as a final send off by the Red Arrows, which was superb although I still think they make good minehunting targets! On that note, there were three of us on the course who all served in HMS HUBBERSTON together when Martin Woolley was in command.
For your interest really I've attached a picture taken two nights ago at our end of course dinner. Left to Right - Commander Kev Dodd (Gunz), Lt Cdr (Cdr desig) George Tabeart (YO) and Your's Truly (Navs). The Ton Class spirit lives on! Although, I now need to detox after what has been a fairly excessive final few weeks.
HMS Hubberston reunion at Shrivenham
16 Jul 09 - New Personal Update
The Members Only area contains an update from MCDOA member Clive Rogerson afloat somewhere in the Mediterranean.
MY Mirgab V in St Tropez
(Capt Clive Rogerson)
15 Jul 09 - Paddy McAlpine's 'Boat' Open to Visitors
Today's Portsmouth News contains this article announcing that HMS Daring will be open to visitors in Portsmouth this weekend during a mini 'Navy Days' (see also entry for 2 Jun 09 and entry for 18 May 09 in News Archive 26). The article includes this photo of her Captain, MCDOA member Paddy McAlpine:
HMS Daring Captain Paddy McAlpine with
Historic Dockyard chief executive Robert Bruce
(Portsmouth News website photo by Steve Reid)
14 Jul 09 - Three Men without a Boat
Sadly, the MCDOA's 'Not Quite the Last of the Summer Wine' trio of Barlow, Holloway and Hoole is currently up the creek without a paddle because Dougout is in dock. Yesterday, we had to sail her round from Whale Island and lock into the marina at Port Solent, adjacent to Horsea Island, where she was due to be lifted out of the water this morning to have a new engine installed over the next week or so.
Above and below: Barlow's yacht Dougout at Port Solent
At least Dougout will have the opportunity to mingle with more affluent society in the meantime.
13 Jul 09
Crossed the Bar - Former CPO(MW) Dusty Miller
Former WO(MW) Dixie Dean has advised me that ex-CPO(MW) Dusty Miller passed away this morning after a short illness. Dusty spent quite a bit of time teaching in the MW School as well as serving on the Torpedo Trials Team and, Dixie believes, CWTA (as it was called then), all based at HMS Vernon. Dusty's wife Diane has asked, via former WO(MW) Barney Barnett, that all his friends and previous colleagues be informed. Details of his funeral are not yet available.
My favourite memory of Dusty goes back to a particular LMCDO training week at EGUERMIN, the Belgian-Netherlands Minewarfare School in Ostend. I think the year was 1979. Dusty was the LMCDOs' MW instructor and I was one of the Vernon MW staff officers accompanying the course. During our nightly tours of Ostend's back street restaurants and bars, Dusty carried his personal wine glass and an inexhaustible supply of Beaujolais Nouveau in the capacious inside pockets of his greatcoat. Wherever we went, he produced glass and bottle with a flourish (out of sight of the patron, of course) and offered to top up anyone else who wanted any.
RIP Dusty. We will miss you. Sincere condolences to Diane.
From LMCDO '79 MW Module Course Officer Cdr Neill 'Dinga' Bell RAN on board USS George Washington:
I am stunned to hear this news. Dusty kept me on the straight and narrow on many occasions when there was a challenge to hand at the school and I still carry my First MCM Squadron tie that he used to wear all the time and then he passed on to me when I left to return to Australia!
I would like to join the ranks of the many to provide my sincere condolences to Diane and let her know that he holds a special place in my thoughts as we shared some 'moments' at sea that will remain with me forever! I am at sea at the moment on board the USS George Washington for an exercise....out of retirement for a while.... and tomorrow when I gaze across the sea I will have my own moment's silence for a shipmate.
Take care yourself Rob,
Cdr Neill 'Dinga' Bell RAN with Cdr Jeffrey DeBolt USN beside an
F/A-18E Super Hornet on board USS George Washington
From MCDOA President and LMCDO '79 graduate Colin Welborn:
I was really quite upset to read that news. I personally have so much to thank 'Dusty' for - a legend in his own lifetime, but he was so patient and passionate. The drinking in Belgium I have not yet recovered from - there was a night at the MW School in Ostend when Dusty and I were caught on the way back and seen by the CO. The water was cascading down the stairs and the only thing missing was a salmon. We tried to explain to the Dutch CO that this was LMCDO '79 but he had none of it.
Such halcyon days - he will be missed. I will make an effort to be at the funeral. I presume it won't be a traditional coffin - a replica of a bottle of Beaujolais Nouveau would be more appropriate and a glass of 'zeguzzen' on completion - no idea how to spell it but you all know what I mean!!
From MCDOA member and LMCDO '79 graduate Tim Curd:
Thanks for letting us know. A very sad day indeed. Suddenly makes you feel very mortal.
The main back street bar in question was the “Zeegusen Bar” (not sure of the spelling) where we all got rapidly hammered on the famous double-handed pot “Zeegusen” and, as you quite rightly say, Dusty stuck firmly, despite raucous persuasion from the '79 Long Course, to his favourite tipple Beaujolais Nouveau. That run ashore has become a legend...
...Much, much more went on but after the Zeegusen Bar it’s all very hazy. I know the Kok-Kok chicken restaurant came into it somewhere.
If you find out the date of the funeral please let me know. If I can, I’d like to be there.
Longer and stronger,
I have omitted a section of Tim's e-mail recounting 'that' run ashore in more detail so as to spare the blushes of others involved. These included Neill 'Dinga' Bell (the RAN MCD exchange officer resposible for the LMCDOs' MW Module) and course members Sven Kalvoe RNoN, Taff Sweeney (since tx'd RAN), Bill Chambers, Allan Rankin (since tx'd RAN), Gordon Stamp (since tx'd RNZN), Andy Ryan and Colin Dodd. As far as the Kok-Kok chicken restaurant goes, Tim is referring to this establishment shown with ex-CPO(MW) Taff Reader standing in front of it. Legend has it that the record for consumption is held by ex-CPO(MW) 'Simmo' Simmonds who allegedly polished off 14 half-chickens in a single day.
Koekoek Chicken Restaurant in Ostend
(Courtesy of Taff Reader)
From my own point of view, I hired a car one afternoon of that particular week and drove from Ostend across Belgium and Holland into Germany to propose to Linda who was then teaching at RAF Wildenrath. That's another story in itself but suffice it to say that the German police didn't take kindly to someone crossing the frontier at a closed border post at night. I'm relieved to this day that RAN MCD exchange officer Neill 'Dinga' Bell managed to get the car back to Hertz within a minute of the noon deadline after he borrowed it the following morning. As it was, my VISA bill for the 24-hour hire came to £124 which was a fair bit of money back then. However, as Linda is still telling me thirty years later, she was worth it. To repeat Colin's words, halcyon days indeed.
HMS Shoreham completes OST
The Royal Navy website contains this article announcing that HMS Shoreham has completed her Operational Sea Training (see also entry for 4 Mar 09 in News Archive 25).
12 Jul 09
Proposed Minewarfare & Divers' Middle East Dinner (MADMED)
The attention of any members likely to be in the Middle East in mid-October is drawn to the 'Upcoming Events' page in the Members Only area.
More about Lt Cdr John Futcher MBE RN
Former WO(D) Dave 'Mona' Lott in Australia has sent me this additional information about ex-MCDO John Futcher (see entry for 24 Jun 09):
A small amount of further information about John Futcher, ex-MCDO, who engaged me in a highly interesting 45 minute telephone call yesterday evening.
Among the many things John talked about was that Dave (Ginger) Lermitte was one of the other members on his MCDO's qualifying course. John also mentioned Hoppy Hopewell and AB(CD) Ginger Bitchard (who qualified CD3 with me) as part of the unit that accompanied him to the USA for some trials work. Bill Filer received several mentions with great respect.
I think John mentioned his own age as being 81 and he told me that he intends to get himself a computer after he and his wife had visited Joe Cook and his wife Irene, who had kindly shown him all over your excellent MCDOA website. This has actually prompted John to give serious consideration to obtaining and learning to use a computer. John also mentioned that he had bumped into George Wookey during a visit to Western Australia shortly before George left us. Also mentioned was that at one part of his career he was the CO of HMS Dingley with PO(CD1) Ted Butler as his coxswain.
I don't know if you could please manage it but John would sincerely like to be remembered to both "Uncle" Bill Filer and Hoppy Hopewell. And if any remembrances are returned from either of them then either I or Joe Cook would certainly deem it a pleasure to be able to pass on any such messages to John which no doubt would really make for a bright event in his life.
My sincere regards,
Dave (Mona) Lott"
I have relayed John's sentiments to venerable MCDOA Honorary Life Member 'Uncle Bill' Filer MBE GM who told me he would pass them on to Hoppy Hopewell at their next weekly meeting in Lee-on-the-Solent.
Incidentally, Lt Cdr David 'Ginger' Lermitte (mentioned above) led members of the Royal Navy's Far East Clearance Diving Team, backed up by Clearance Divers from the Royal Australian Navy's CDT1 and HMS Sheraton, to conduct the first surveys of the wrecks of the battleships HMS Repulse and HMS Prince of Wales in the South China Sea in 1965 and 1966 respectively. See here for his reports re-printed from the RN Diving magazine.
I have also received this e-mail from from ex-CD1 Tony 'Willy' Wilkes:
I served under John Futcher in HMS Dingley in 1958. He was one of the finest officers I ever served with, similar to Arthur Checksfield. I've sent an e-mail to the RSL and hope it finds him.
11 Jul 09
Death of Alastair 'Al' Sydney Cuthbert
Captain Alastair Sydney Cuthbert MN
12 August 1929 - 17 June 2009
Morty Drummond has informed me of the death of fellow MCDOA member Alastair 'Al' Cuthbert on 17 June in Dawesville, Western Austrailia. He was two months short of his 80th birthday.
According to Morty, Al Cuthbert hailed from Scotland and was originally in the RNR but qualified as a CDO in the RN in the mid-1950s. He overlapped with Morty on exchange in Australia in 1957 as the CO of the diving tender attached to the RAN Diving School at HMAS Rushcutter in Sydney under the auspices of the TAS establishment, HMAS Watson. He returned to the UK and is believed to have served in HMS Brenchley, the diving tender attached to the 51st Minesweeping Squadron based at HMS Lochinvar in Port Edgar on the Forth, but he transferred to the RAN sometime afterwards. On retiring from the RAN as a Lt Cdr, he worked in the offshore diving industry and commanded oil rig support ships before settling in Dawesville. His interests included diving, travelling, camping, sailing, kayaking, tennis, ornithology (he was Chairman of the Broome Bird Observatory) and woodturning.
I have often corresponded with Al and his wife Ann, particularly in a three-way link with the late George Wookey, World Deep Diving Record breaker and another ex-RN MCDOA member living in Western Australia. Al always took an interest in the Association's affairs via the website and we extend our sincere condolences to his widow Ann and their three children: Andrew (a Sat Diving Supervisor), Susan and Alex, and their three grandchildren: Nicholas, Amy and Simon.
AB Christopher Johnston Inquest Verdict
In his role as RN Superintendent of Diving, MCDOA Chairman Paul Jones has asked me to publish this announcement concerning the inquest into the death of AB Christopher Johnston RNR after diving at Horsea Island (see first entry for 9 Jul 09):
"Personal from Superintendent of Diving – A jury at the Portsmouth Coroner’s Inquest returned a verdict of ‘accidental death’ in the case of AB Chris ‘Johnno’ Johnstone (RNR) who tragically died last June during a routine training dive at Horsea Island. Incorrectly reported last year as a heart attack, the established cause of death was a pulmonary barotrauma leading to a fatal Cerebral Arterial Gas Embolism.
The Coroner was generous in his praise for the valiant efforts of the on site divers and his buddy who did their very best to revive him but to no avail and on behalf of Johnno’s family thanked them individually for their efforts. Johnno’s wife attended the Inquest throughout. On behalf of our tight knit diving fraternity of which Johnno was a member, may our thoughts and sincere condolences go out to Mrs Sharon Johnstone and their children."
Answer to Tattoo Teaser
In the entry for 30 Jun 09 in News Archive 26, I published this photo of a tattoo sported by a well-known MCDOA member encountered by the MCDOA's 'Not Quite the Last of the Summer Wine' trio of Barlow, Holloway and Hoole at Hornet Sailing Club in Gosport earlier the same day.
Here is the owner revealed:
Martyn Holloway with Simon Nicholson
at Hornet Sailing Club on 30 Jun 09
Yes, it was ex-RN Superintendent of Diving and former MCDOA Chairman, Simon Nicholson. His final job in the Royal Navy was as the married unaccompanied British Representative on Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean for 14 months where he acted as the Commanding Officer of Naval Party 1002 and as the local magistrate and judge for all legal matters dealing with British law. He also had responsibility for the British customs personnel, Royal Overseas Police Officers (ROPOs) and a complement of Royal Marines who patrol and protect the entire British Indian Ocean Territories. He acquired his tattoo somewhere along the line.
Simon is currently re-fitting his 45 ft Southerly RS 135 yacht Alambil at Hornet Sailing Club prior to circumnavigating the world in six-month stages, accompanied by his wife Jeanette. The first part of the passage will involve transiting the French inland waterways from the Channel to the Mediterranean. He showed us around his yacht including the master cabin aft, double cabin forward, saloon acommodating four additional berths, well-appointed galley and brand new compartment for the diving air compressor he intends installing.
'Not Quite the Last of the Summer Wine Trio'
boards Nicholson's yacht Alambil
Simon and Jeanette intend inviting friends to join them for short periods as they circle the world so watch this space.
10 Jul 09
Beverly Lade's funeral
I regret that I was unable to attend the funeral of MCDOA member Chris Lade's wife Beverly in Lee-on-the-Solent yesterday (see entry for 23 Jun 09) but Paul Jones, our Chairman, tells me that it was:
"...very (very) moving and Chris Lade and the children should feel incredibly proud of the send off they gave to a dearly missed wife and mum. Lots of uniformed attendance (as he wished) with plenty of MCDOs supporting."
HMS Middleton helps get Bristol balloon fiesta off the ground
The Bristol Evening Post website contains this article describing how HMS Middleton marked the 100th anniversary of naval aviation at the Bristol International Balloon Fiesta.
9 Jul 09
Diver dies after failing to breathe out on his ascent
Today's Portsmouth News contains this article describing the inquest into the death on 24 June 2008 of AB Christopher Johnstone RNR after a dive at Horsea Island.
HMS Blyth to visit Blyth tomorrow
Today's News Post Leader contains this article about a four-day visit by HMS Blyth to her afiliated town of Blyth starting tomorrow.
John Ouvry's mine
HMS Belfast on the Thames
On Tuesday, I accompanied the late Cdr John Ouvry DSO RN’s youngest son, David, and the WW II veteran RNVR bomb & mine disposal officer and author, Noel Cashford MBE, to a meeting on board the Imperial War Museum’s Second World War veteran cruiser HMS Belfast in the Pool of London. The purpose of our visit was to discuss plans with HMS Belfast's Director, Brad King, for a high profile lunchtime function on 26 November to mark the 70th anniversary of John Ouvry rendering safe the first German magnetic mine at Shoeburyness on 23 November 1939. This feat enabled its secrets to be revealed at HMS Vernon where effective countermeasures were subsequently developed. As a result, John Ouvry and his team were presented with the first Naval Honours of WW II by King George VI on Vernon's parade ground on 19 December 1939.
Historic photos of John Ouvry and his mine
HMS Belfast is the obvious venue because she has Ouvry’s mine on display and was herself seriously damaged by a magnetic mine on 21 November 1939 as she left the Firth of Forth. This mine, laid on 4 November by U-21 under the command of Kapitänleutnant Fritz Frauenheim, caused 34 of Belfast’s crew to be injured, broke her keel and wrecked her hull and machinery to such an extent that it took nearly three years to repair her at Devonport.
Left: Brad King, David Ouvry and Noel Cashford with John Ouvry's mine on board HMS Belfast
Right: David Ouvry, Rob Hoole and Noel Cashford with John Ouvry's mine on board HMS Belfast
At our meeting, I took the opportunity to stress John Ouvry’s legacy with regard to post-war RN bomb & mine disposal right up to the present day in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere, including mainland UK. All I need do now is find a suitably eminent serving RN officer to address this aspect as part of a presentation on the day. To this end, I hope to engage the help of such a person as Captain Mine Warfare & Patrol Vessels, Diving and Fishery Protection (CMFP - soon to be MCDOA member Mark Durkin) otherwise this task will fall to me. Not only am I no longer current but my best uniform seems to have shrunk recently!
I also reserved space to promote Project Vernon, the campaign to erect a statue of a diver and mine at Gunwharf Quays in Portsmouth to commemorate the mine warfare & diving heritage of HMS Vernon, Ouvry’s base of operations and the former occupant of the Gunwharf Quays site. As you well know, Vernon-trained naval personnel (including Noel Cashford who rendered safe over 200 devices alone) were deployed country-wide to deal with bombs and land mines before, during and after the Blitz. The inordinately high number of decorations awarded to this small band of individuals is testament to their industry and gallantry.
Although John Ouvry is no longer with us (I attended his funeral at All Saints' Church in Milford-on-Sea on 5 March 1993), his grand-daughter Jan is a Lt Cdr in the Royal Navy and she attended the MCDOA's annual dinner at HMS Excellent in November 2006 while still a Lt.
Jan Ouvry with MCDOA President
Colin Welborn in Nov 2006
8 Jul 09
Project Vernon Promotion weekend at Gunwharf Quays
Project Vernon is running a retail outlet stand at Gunwharf Quays (the former site of HMS Vernon) in Portsmouth over the weekend 25 & 26 July 09. The aim is to raise funds for the monument by selling tickets for the Grand Summer Draw and remaining prints of John Terry's superb painting, 'Danger at Depth'. If you have a couple of hours to spare and would like to help on the stand, please contact the event coordinator, Dixie Dean, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you are anywhere near Gunwharf Quays over that weekend, pop in and see us on the stall and buy some tickets. Any support for this unique project is most welcome. We have already raised several tens of thousands of pounds but need everyone's help to raise even more if we are to see it reach fruition.
Dig deep chaps.
Ex-RN CDs in action off Qatar
I have received this e-mail from ex-WO(D) Spike Hughes in Qatar:
Hopefully, this e-mail finds you fit and well, and of course enjoying the British summer sunshine :-)
I thought you and the readers may be interested in this article about the Rig-Support Vessel MV Demas Victory, which sank in rough seas in the Doha Channel this week. It was also covered by Sky News here and in the Gulf Times here and here. What the articles don't mention is that the following ex-RN divers were involved:
1. My good self - as part of the Qatar Search and Rescue Team and Coastguard, involved in the initial search and recovery of the victims (I was the first to enter the wreck and retrieved the first crew members, confirming no survivors), and worked as the Military Rep alongside the Halul Offshore Divers.
2. John Meakin (ex-CPO(D)) - as part of the Qatar Navy Team, who took charge of the team that used explosives initially to gain safer entry into the wreck.
3. Onboard the Halul Offshore Saturation Diving Support Vessel involved in the supervision and cutting into the wreck using Broco:
Neil (Nick Lawson) ex-CD2 - Saturation Superintendent
Brin Morgan ex-CD3 - Qatar Petroleum Representative
Alex (Taff) Templeton ex-CD3 - Saturation Diver
Unfortunately, I didn't get the opportunity to take any photos (I spent most of the four days underwater), but there were press and miltary photographers present so I will attempt to get a couple if available.
Nice to see the 'Old Boys' - I dread to think of the combined age - still out there doing it! [By Webmaster: I assume that Spike is referring to the MCDOA's youthful 'Not Quite the Last of the Summer Wine' trio here!]
Spike Hughes MIExpE
Senior Diving Trainer
Qatar Internal Security Force"
7 Jul 09 - New Personal Update
I have received an update from MCDOA member Martin Mackey which I've posted in the Members Only area. This photo shows Martin dining at the Gulshan Indian Restaurant in Shrivenham last week with fellow MCDOA members Pete Williams, Jim Nisbet and Don Crosbie. They were joined by MCD Lt Cdr Mike Oborn RAN who undertook his MW training in 1998 when Martin was an exchange officer on the staff at the RAN MW School in Sydney.
MDOA gathering in Shrivenham July 2009
Clockwise from front: Mike Oborn, Don Crosbie,
Martin Mackey, Pete Williams and Jim Nisbet.
How about a few more updates from other MCDOA members spread around the bazaars?
3 Jul 09 - Families give HMS Brocklesby sailors huge welcome
Today's Portsmouth News contains this article about HMS Brocklesby's homecoming yesterday.
2 Jul 09 - HMS Brocklesby comes home
I stood on the Round Tower at the entrance to Portsmouth harbour in glorious weather this morning to help welcome HMS Brocklesby back home from her six-month deployment with SNMCMG1 in the Baltic, North Sea and Mediterranean. During her absence, she disposed of six wartime bombs and her NATO task group dealt with 20 tons of legacy ordnance overall. She even disposed of another WW II bomb in the North Sea the day before yesterday on her way back from Kiel.
While waiting, I had the pleasure of meeting Tina, wife of Brocklesby's coxswain, PO(D) Ken Smith, together with their son Louis.
Tina and Louis Smith
Having embarked the Second Sea Lord (Admiral Sir Alan Massey) at Spithead, Brocklesby appeared out of the haze escorted by QHM's launch and a MOD Police boat before turning to enter harbour.
Above and below: HMS Brocklesby enters harbour
After a bit of vigorous waving, Tina and Louis headed for 2 Basin in the naval base where Brocklesby was welcomed alongside by more families and friends, other ships of the Second MCM Squadron and a Royal Marines band.
A final wave from Tina and Louis before they head for the naval base to greet Dad
If any 'Brocs' would like higher resolution copies of these and other photos, contact me via my webmaster address here.
1 Jul 09
HMS Brocklesby home tomorrow
Today's Portsmouth News contains this article about the return of HMS Brocklesby tomorrow from her six-month deployment with Standing NATO MCM Group 1 (SNMCMG1). She is due at Outer Spit Buoy at 1000 before entering Portsmouth.
HMS Brocklesby off Portsmouth
(Portsmouth News photo)
Navy News items
The July issue of Navy News contains these items of MCDOA interest:
Ian's feet of endurance: The participation of CPO(D) Ian 'Scouse' Fleming in the 65-mile Project Pegasus run.
Fantastic in plastic: A letter by ex-CD Christopher Roddis about the new RN Diver action figure.
Interest in Iveston: A visit to TS Iveston by the Master of the Worshipful Company of Ironmongers.
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